Google Finance Redesigned

I have been thinking to redesign Google Finance app for a quite some time since I think all Google apps should have at least adapted to Holo Style UI, and I think there are still quite some number of users for the app (unfortunately not me because it doesn’t support share market of Malaysia), but I didn’t quite find the time for it. However, last Android Design in Action episode has put up a challenge to all Android developers/designers for some redesigned screens of any current apps, and that motivated me to continue working on this redesign despite of the really packed schedule.

The current Google Finance app is really ugly, which looks like a web-app rather than a native app. The graph is not loaded at the proper size, old Android UI elements are still there, and the ugly legacy action overflow. Therefore a redesign is definitely required.  And the objective is pretty straight forward: Make it a clean and nice app to be used by every user levels. Therefore I tried to preserve the familiarity so the existing user will not have to re-learn the new UI while still providing a refreshed UI compliant to Android Design Guideline. Here’s my take:

What do you think? Shot me in the comment box 🙂

If you want to see some comparison shots between the current version and my redesigned version, I have posted them in my G+, feel free to comment there as well!

Password Manager Redesigned

During the 25 billion app downloads celebration at Google Play Store, I noticed mSecure – Password Manager was in the 25 cents list, and after I reviewed the screenshots, I immediately buy it – not to use it (at this moment), but to redesign it. It really surprised me when I found out the app is actually selling at $9.99 with this pretty dated and ugly user interface (and possibly bad user experience).

So I started to play around with the app, and as expected, I got really frustrated using the app even though I am just trying to do some simple stuffs – a redesign is definitely required. I start sketching using my GUI Sketching Kit and transfer my sketching to the digital version, and it was pretty fun! It turns out to be pretty inspiring, and I am actually thinking to work with some great developers to make this design a real working app (Any taker? Let me know if there is such possibility!).

Anyway, below are all the mock ups for the redesign:

What do you think? Do you like this redesign? Hit me with your comments/suggestions/critiques!

The Verge Redesigned

It has been quite some time I wanted to do a redesign on The Verge app due to their not-so-great UI/UX. Just to be fair, they have just pushed a new update which is a lot better than the previous version that I am referring (and I didn’t see that coming!). The new version is smoother, and it has Nav Drawer navigation (which coincide with my new redesign, but I am not surprised because it’s a natural choice) and scrollable tabs, which are definitely welcomed UI patterns. While my redesign might be slightly similar to their new update, I still want to publish them because I think there are still many room for improvement to achieve better user experience.

Below are all the mock ups that I have done (07/10/2012 – updated with tablet version), and I have included some comments for my choice of UI patterns:

What do you think? Don’t hesitate to hit me with your comments/suggestions/critiques!

Android UI/UX Tips #3

In Android UI/UX tips #3, I have looked into some apps with the following UI/UX problems:

  • Hidden Status Bar (UX)
  • Outdated Action Bar and low-res icons (UI/UX)
  • Bad offline handling (UX)
  • Obstructive UI elements (UI/UX)

Hiding Status Bar? Do it Properly!

Some of the app designers/developers didn’t realize that the Status Bar is actually part of the System Bars, therefore if you decided to play around with it to get the maximum screen estate for your app, you have to do it right.

Let’s take RepliGo Reader as the first example. The app is actually pretty good in terms of features and UI, but I didn’t quite like the way it handles the Status Bar. It only allows the user to choose between Always Hide or Always Show option during Reading Mode, which is kind of limited. If they can also include a Show/Hide Together with Other Controls option, then it will be a pretty great user experience, and this should be the default behavior. Look at Google Play Books app, it handles the Status Bar nicely.

Another app that worth mentioning for this issue (which actually bothers me since Jelly Bean) is the stock Gallery app in Jelly Bean. This app has two issues with the Status Bar:

  • In Landscape mode, Status Bar disappeared and there is no way to bring it back.

This is one bad UX example in stock app. Given the importance of the Status Bar in Android device, my suggestion is don’t hide it in any screen mode unless the user is well aware of some method to call it (tap anywhere to show it, for example).

  • In Portrait mode, the black bar of the Status Bar permanently stays on the screen in Viewing Mode (only in Jelly Bean).

I am not too sure if there is anyone noticing this but this is pretty frustrating for me. I have been using Gallery app to view my app mock up in full screen (which I just need to trim off the bottom Navigation Bar), and it doesn’t work anymore because the black bar of the Status Bar is now taking up the Viewing Mode space as well. Thus, if you are going to hide the Status Bar in your app, hide it completely!

Use the new Action Bar and High Resolution Icons

With the release of the awesome ActionBarSherlock library that allows the developer to implement the ICS/JB Action Bar with full compatibility from Android 2.x, personally I am not too sure why there are tons of great apps still decided to stick with the older (and less aesthetic) Action Bar design and/or low resolution icons. Besides making your app feel aged, it doesn’t give any good impression to your user if your app using lower resolution icons – remember, Action Bar is one important UI element in Android Design which is always visible to the user. Some examples below (I am sure you can find more):

So, forget about the old Action Bar and start designing/redesigning/developing Android app using new Android Design!

Properly Handle Offline Situation

It’s true that most of the apps nowadays require internet for their full capability, either to get new information or for syncing purpose, however, we cannot expect our user are always connected to the internet, therefore you have to properly handle the situation when the device goes to offline.

I had this issue with The Verge app which actually crashes when I try to play around with the app offline. Definitely not a user experience that you would like to introduce into your app. Handle it with a simple toast or a warning message regarding the offline status would have solve the issue.

Obstructive UI elements is a no-no

It is so awesome that Android developers have numerous of great libraries for certain UI elements implementation, but once you have used those libraries; you are basically responsible for everything that you decided to show to the user.

One bad example of this is, again, The Verge app, which shows the Pull-to-Refresh indicator and overlapped with certain UI elements in the app (one of the examples shown above). I am not too sure the complexity in technical terms, but I assume it won’t take months to remove it? Publishing your app in such condition will only give bad impression for your app overall quality.

Hope these UI/UX tips help! As usual, don’t hesitate to leave your comment!

Android UI/UX Tips #2

After publishing the 1st Android UI/UX Tips, it seems that I am able to find more UI/UX mistakes in various apps (perhaps I become ultra-sensitive now?), so here it is, Android UI/UX Tips #2 to inspire Android Designers/Developers in developing app with awesome UI and UX.

Don’t Make it Hard for The User

If your app have some awesome features that simplify user interaction, think thoroughly when to/not to remove it from your app.

One example that I would like to show is the Update button in Play Store app. When there are more than one apps require update, the Update button is very useful. Updating all the apps will only take one touch. But, when there is only one app having update, the Update button mysteriously disappeared. The problem is, now to update that particular one app, three touches are required (Select the app > Click Update > Click Accept & Download). I personally do not see any use case requires such interaction design – if you can do the same for multiple items, you should be able to do it for a single item.

Consistent with Android Design

In Google Drive app, most of the dialog in the app are using the basic button, which looks really ugly and inconsistent with Android Design. The buttons in default dialog in Android should be (I am not sure) already using the borderless buttons, so I am just feel like asking the Google Drive developers:

Why make the dialog looks like a Microsoft Windows dialog?

No Double Up Combo, Please

Astro File Manager has a new update with refreshed UI, and it comes with a double Up combo! As I mentioned in my Google+ post, it is definitely unnecessary and downright ugly. Just use the app icon for better identity establishment. Perhaps the app designer want to help enhancing the Up affordance?

Consistent with Icon for User Interaction

Again, it’s Google Drive. In the Detail View of a file/folder, you can see there is a Done button (Tick icon) in the Action Bar, and a Cross icon near the file name. You might think that the Cross icon is meant for the file/folder itself, perhaps for deletion or discarding changes? Nope. It behaves exactly the same as the Done button, and this is really a confusing design. In Android, the Cross icon usually meant remove, discard, or cancel. This is not Microsoft Windows. Just stick with the Done button at the Action Bar and it will be just nice.

That’s all for Android UI/UX Tips #2! Hope it is inspiring!

Android UI/UX Tips #1

Realizing that it is almost impossible to write a post for each of the UI/UX tips that I have in mind (except those worth a discussion), I have decided to occasionally come out with Android UI/UX Tips.

So in the 1st Android UI/UX Tips, I will look into some official Android apps by Google (Google+, Google Drive, Email), as well as TED app, and talk about some UI/UX mistakes in them and their possible UI/UX improvements.

Avoid Using Confusing/Inappropriate Color

Color, especially when it is related to interface elements, is an important factor in designing great UX. When it is used correctly, it can provide immediate feedback or information to the user and create confidence in user interaction.

Google+ Send Button

I am not sure if it is a bug, but the Send button in Google+ app doesn’t change color (or the grey level) to indicate the button state. This is definitely one bad UX example. Due to the nature of touch interface (there is not mouse over or tooltip), users will have to rely on the visual clue for the state of user interface element. Change the color of the Send button to a darker grey when there is some text entry should already solve the confusion.

Action Bar Icons in TED App

The Action Bar icons in TED app are designed well for their action (although they seem to be a little bit ‘fatter’), but they have an inappropriate grey color – they looked too much like disabled buttons, or in other words, the grey color is very unfamiliar. Sure, you can argue that the color choice is due to the pure white Action Bar in the app, but the app doesn’t use the suggested Action Bar icon color for light theme. Using the color scheme meant for Holo Light (#333333, 60% Opacity), they will definitely give more confidence and familiarity to the user, as well as consistent with Android Design Guideline on Iconography.

Deleting Message in Google Drive

Even though Google Drive is a pretty unpolished app, I still would like use it as an example. In Google Drive app, when you confirm a file deletion, the Deleting… wording is in a welcoming green color. For this case, I would prefer not to ignore the language of color. Every color has their own associated meaning – Red means Stop/Attention, Green means Go, Orange indicates Warm and Blue indicates Cool. Therefore, it probably make more sense if the message is in red color to grab the user attention about the file deletion. It will be even better if those dialogs in Google Drive get a revision.

Avoid Unnecessary (And Ugly) Navigation

Navigation, one of the most important part of touch interaction, can cause serious user frustration if it’s not done right. Fortunately with the official Android Design Guideline for Navigation, it should not be a difficult task to do it right. But if you want to know how to do it wrong? Check out the stock Email app.

It’s a surprise to see the stock Email app doesn’t have that swipe navigation system found in official Gmail app. In the stock Email app, a button-based navigation is used in Detail Views. It does not only take up some precious screen estate, but it is also destroying the aesthetic of the app, especially in Landscape mode. Swipe navigation and the thin indicator in Gmail app is already a much better solution for this. Otherwise, integrating the navigation buttons into the Action Bar is also a feasible solution (Just to be fair, the Phone version of Email app does have the navigation buttons integrated in Action Bar, and I am not sure why it doesn’t do the same on Tablet version).

Hope these tips help in crafting awesome app with great UI/UX elements. More tips coming in the very near future (if I have any)!