Your FAB Icon Might Need Some Optical Alignment

FAB Icon Optical Alignment

Todoist recently have their major redesign using Material Design and I thought it was actually quite nicely done! Though I found one minor design issue that might worth a mention – did you manage to figure it out at the screenshot below?

Todoist

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An example of really bad mobile app design – Maybank2u

mbb

Disclaimer: This post is mainly about the author rant about bad mobile app design from the largest bank in Malaysia, but it is also a great example of don’ts in mobile app design.

It’s September 2014. Material Design was introduced few months ago during Google I/O 2014. The predecessor – Holo Design was introduced late 2011 together with the launch of Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), which is about 2-3 years ago, and it’s getting matured as time goes. It’s probably not wrong to expect any Android apps published in the year 2014 embraced with all the lessons that we have learnt in Holo Design and craft the best Android experiences for the user.

Except it’s not for Maybank, the largest bank in Malaysia, and one of the world’s top 100 banks.

Last week, they have officially launched their revamped mobile banking app, claiming that it has the best mobile banking experience compared to the previous version. It does seems to have a refreshed design – except it’s probably one of the worst and most unacceptable mobile design that I ever seen. And it’s 2014.

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Crafting the Unclouded experience

Unclouded

Unclouded by Christian Göllner, an app that helps to analyse and clean your cloud storage (Dropbox and Google Drive, for now) has just recently out of beta, and I have the honor to work together with Christian on the design for this app. I was really impressed by the app quality when I first received the early build of the app – without hesitation, I told him that I wanted to work together to bring this app to the level of awesomeness. It is super amazing that the app has been featured by Android Police, TechCrunch, CNET, Lifehacker, and xda-developers, and these boosted our confidence about the design and development direction of the app.

In this post, I would love to talk about some design details that we have worked hard to fine tune in order to craft the ‘Unclouded’ experience that we have visioned.

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Result for Android UI/UX (Re)Design Challenge 2.0

android-design-challenge - result

After taking some times, we finally have the 10 winners from all 42 entries! Congratulations!

No, it wasn’t an easy task to pick the winners – it won’t happen without the judges involved that basically spent hours to look through all the entries and place their scores and comments on them – Thank you! And to those who doesn’t make it to the winner list this time, don’t be disappointed – it doesn’t mean that your entry is bad – go on, apply some tweaks and make it happen!

The 10 Winning Entries

Below are the 10 winning entries, together with the selected comment from the judges (not in any order):

Chris Basha – Dribbble

Awesome stuff. Great work wielding Android design language with some unique taste that feels completely at home. Using an Instagram-esque presentation of content makes sense (I’d do some recon on whether this is true) and the suggestions stream is epic – all about the content. The app has a good balance that caters to Prospects and Players alike – perfecting this experience is crucial.

Only things I can call out are the crowding of content on the Item view. The image is the most important piece of the screen and shouldn’t be covered by anything. At the very least the AB should disappear as soon as the view is loaded.

Besides that and some tight text on the Designers view, this is a great v1 and should be started immediately 🙂

Elad Izak – My Battery Saver

Sweet. While this is taking quite some inspiration from Timely, it’s a joy to just look at those colors. The app’s purpose seems simple enough, to use the visual layer for clean beauty. Make it a reality.

Andre Goersch – RunPee

The app design is clear and clean. Developers will be happy to see this design. I have concerns about scalability of this design though. Going to larger screens will take a lot of rethinking with some screens but would probably be possible. 

Brand and Android UX blend together nicely as well.

Cole Chamberlin – Eve Music Player

First off, great presentation of thought through the deck. This is really important because it helps relay meaning but also forces you to really consider the reasons for your choices.

Overall, this is a fresh presentation that balances native patterns with unique layouts and interactions. I think gestures are a great idea. They can be a double-edged sword however – the next step for this would be some user testing to make sure things are clear and fit the app’s desired use scenario (sitting on the couch vs running, etc.)

Polished to a near-shine – I’d fiddle with the action bar a bit more. GREAT WORK.

Alexander Karpilovich – Kinopoisk.ru

Great Androidy update to the original UI while keeping the brand. The design also looks very scalable to larger screens.

I’d reconsider transparent navigation bar and status bar use though. In this app there’s no added value of using them.

Evgeny Belyaev – Evernote

Great redesign. Evernote feels a lot clumsy on the current version, I would use it again if it looks like this work. I would considerate to not use Roboto Slab everywhere, but it’s a better look and feel, definitely a improvement over the current app.

Swapnil Chitnis – Project Throne

I like this a lot. Finally someone who adds some unique branding to the mix, without sticking too hard to the guidelines. It’s clean, it’s clear, it’s fun and it’s Android.

Paul Forgione – Kho

Any experience that helps manage my medical needs without bringing the “serious medical issue” aura to light is a winner in my book. This presentation is simple and follows the guidelines while staying unique. It feels more “human” than analytical which is especially important for a daily use app.

Only a tad more polish on things like the graph labels and scrolling blocks/buttons at the bottom and you’ll have something realllllly great.

Sean Smith – HBO Go

Then we have (finally) a great use of KitKat immersive features here, you can see the ActionBar but the opacity trick make it beautiful, specially the home screen with pictures and stuff. Love the animations to show UX interactions, great presentation!

James Jun – TweetLane

Great work simplifying the app. Some apps try to be everything and that doesn’t always work out. The focus on content and getting everything else out of the way is a good goal.

The little flourishes like the bird moving with refresh is great – these bits of polish differentiate and delight.

Two points:
The tweet button is nice, although it gets a little lost and covers content. Consider making it the prominent blue and hide on scrolling down. The compose view could have a tad more queue that it is the input box and not just an expanded button.

I’m a little concerned the menu view will be difficult to find, so some user testing and feedback will be needed to confirm its placement.

Nice, simple, and clean!

General Impression on the Entries

I received a lot of great feedback from the judges and sponsors for the design challenge this time – below is the general impression of the entries:

  • General quality of the entries are satisfying (though it can be better!)
  • The Android Design Community show signs of maturation
  • Scalability (read: responsiveness) of the design, most of the time, is not considered
  • Lack of tablet-centric design
  • Entry need to be a complete story/flow to capture the overall UX rather than just a few screens

These feedback are great for me to prepare for the next one (if there is one).

Prizes for the Winners

As promised, each winner will walk away with a Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto T-Shirt at the selected size, and a 10 USD Play Store Gift Card (or 10 USD Paypal cash). The T-shirt has been ordered and it will be shipped once it is printed, and I will email the winners for the Play Store Gift Card.

Thank you and I hope everyone able to grab something from the design challenge, and if it’s all possible, I will definitely make the third one next year!

Minna, Domo Arigato! 

How I Would Further Improve Camera Awesome for Android

Camera Awesome, a famous camera app in iOS has finally arrived at Play Store for Android users after 20 months of hard work — and it has made a lot of disappointed people, especially those who cares about Android Design (1, 2). I appreciate the hard work that the development team poured into the app, but with 20 months of development time (which they have blamed the fragmentation in Android), I would really expect something meant for Android users. The app itself is almost completely made with skeuomorphic design (I do not against skeuomorphism, but I personally think that flat (or almost flat) design are better one in digital world), which is a completely port from the iOS version in terms of UI and functionalities.

It wasn’t just us Android Designers reject about this, but look at the comments/reviews from the users — they are just going to further strengthen something we are always talked about — users are rejecting Android app with iOS porting, especially when the UI/UX is almost a blatant copy of the iOS version. Further more with this UI, it doesn’t looks too fitting on the iOS 7 which has been refreshed with flat UI design too — probably the designers in the team doesn’t work hard enough.

I understand that this is a 1.0 release, but with 20 months of development, I really expect an almost-polished app. Besides the skeuomorphic design, there are a few things that I really hate:

  • Complete (old) iOS design in Edit screen and Settings screen
  • Used elastic feedback for overscroll together with overscroll edge effect (I don’t think they understand what’s that for)
  • Switching between screens have no hierarchical transition effect (feels like I am using some mock ups)
  • Used the (old) iOS style Share button (I am not really sure when this can be stopped)
  • Strange Share intent

My Redesign

Below are some redesigned screens showing that the functionalities and the layout doesn’t need to be changed, as long as it is designed for Android (ideally with flatter design) and using the right UI patterns. Sure, I must admit it does looks a little bit similar to iOS 7 stock camera, but even with this design, I will already be a happy man using this ‘awesome’ camera app.

DefaultOptionsEdit

Settings

What do you think? Do you like the iOS UI porting or you would prefer a design meant for Android users? I hope you would say the latter.

Sure, Camera Awesome team, I know it wasn’t easy, but I don’t think it’s that hard either.

How I would further improve Feedly App

Feedly is such an app that I love and hate at the same time. I love the way they deliver my news feed when I need them every morning, and the ‘Swipe to mark as read’ and ‘Pull to close’ gestures almost built into my thumb. But I hated them as well. They always look into new idea and fresh design in their app — which isn’t a bad thing at all — but it’s really disappointing to see that they are still ignoring to adhere (or may be should I say, refer) to the Android Design Guideline, that can potentially enhance the user experience even more for Android users.

Sure, there was an seemingly awesome update from their Android team, but this is the one that get on my nerves and I feel the need to rant about it. So how I would further improve Feedly?

Android Design, may be?

Navigation Drawer Indicator

Nav Drawer Indicator

Overscroll Edge Effect

Overscroll

Edge Swiping

Edge Swiping

Consistent Overflow Placement and Color

Overflow

Where is my Roboto Regular?

Font Type

Gingerbread? KitKat is coming out soon.

Settings

Attention to Design Details, may be?

Incomplete Hint

Hint

Spacing…

Menu

More spacing…

Padding

Not-so-smart menu expansion

Scroll

Better QA, may be?

Bug!

Time Machine

Sure, you can call these nitpicking over small details, but every details are design, and every details count. This is what can make your app great or break. And to me, as a user, I have a feeling that Feedly app is always in the beta stage that never complete, pretty much like Siri in iOS.

Perhaps it’s time to look for a better news feed reader that uses Feedly API. Suggestion?

Android UI/UX Tips #5

Another month, another UI/UX Tips article!  This time I looked into the swiping action between tabs, proper handling of multiple notifications, proper dialog actions, and some smart use of colors to indicate different states.

Swiping between Tabs, Please

Tab Swiping

I think this has been mentioned many times by Android Developers Team, as well as some Android Designers. If you are using tabs in your app, please please please, make sure they support the swipe gesture. It is a system-level interaction pattern, and it is clearly mentioned in the Android Design Guideline. Your users won’t be happy to realize that they can’t swipe to change tabs, which is extremely useful when the device is used with one hand.

Properly Handle Multiple Notifications

Multiple Notification

In a previous version of Google Drive, when you try to upload multiple files in a session, you will get the notification spams (shown in above image), fortunately, it has been fixed in the latest update. If your app can create multiple notifications with some user actions, please make sure that they are handled properly – group them and show the relevant information.

Proper Dialog Actions

Dialog Actions

Sometimes developers/designers tend to overlook the actions available to the user in a dialog. In this shown example, when I was shown with this dialog, I have no way to confirm my selection of font unless I press the Cancel button. This is very confusing for the user,  and definitely not designed according to the Android Design Guideline. Ensure that whenever there is such selection dialog, dismissive and affirmative action buttons are there for the user.

Smart Use of Color for State Indication

Color 1
Color 4
Color 3

Above shows some great examples from recent updates for Google Current and Google+. These are very subtle, yet informative approaches to notify the user about the state, so do consider for such approaches whenever your app requires to give the user some information/feedback regarding the state of something in the app. I really like these!

That’s it for this Android UI/UX Tips! Feel free to share around if you find these information useful, and as always, hit me with comments if you have any.