Sunday, 2 February 2014

Samsung Delivers a Pile of Failure in Their Olympic App

Onboarding experience

What Samsung has done with their first-time experience is stunning. To me this is by far the worst what I've seen. I'd be very interested to see analytics from their system about user dropoff rate in the first couple of screens.

It is worth remembering that the your app's user experience starts from the Play Store. Be careful not to leave in permissions that not actually needed in your app. Why does this app need to disable my lock screen? Scary.

Once you get the surprisingly large 30MB app installed to your device you're ready to embark to to most remarkable journey to try to get to the actual content.

When you first launch the app you're greeted with a popup reminding you that when you use data it might cost you. If that wasn't stupid enough look at the options provided to you in the popup. "Do not remind" and "OK". I wonder if they mean "Do not remind me again" or "Damnit! Don't remind me. I don't want to know!". If I select OK does it mean that they keep reminding me that my data might not be free every time I open the app? Ridiculous. I bet this was put here by Samsung's legal department.

Once you figure out which one of these ridiculous buttons you want to press you'll see a gift from the Samsungs software engineering department. A splash screen with a loading indicator. I refuse to believe that they don't have any content or app structure to show without "Updating data: DB". But hey, at least we get to see the debug messages showing which data it is loading.

When the "Updating data: DB" is ready you're certainly going to see some content and be able to figure out if you want to use the app or not. Well.. not so fast.

First you need to tell the app which Language you'd like to use. I don't know in which usage scenario this makes any sense but I'm certain that Samsung's engineering team must have a great UML chart explaining why this is needed.

User already selected the language when they setup their phone. Apps never have to ask language form users. Never! Worth noting, by the way, the app's language selection doesn't even default to your phone's language setting. It always defaults to English.

Once you figure out which language you'd like to use you're presented the feared T&C screen that every legal department on the planet loves so dearly. Fortunately Samsung hasn't even tested reading their legal text as when you open one the screen's scrolling mechanism breaks. But that's not a big loss. Nobody ever reads T&C anyways.

But surely we are now done. Right? Well.. No.

We now need to tell the app which country we like. While it could probably at least guess the country where I'm in right now (it uses location permissions) it chooses to default to the language setting of your phone (you know, the one they could  have used for the language selection). But then again, personalised data in the app based on my favourite country, athlete and sport. That's great!

I think a better way to do this would be to default to your country and your country's most popular sport and let the user easily change them but I can't really blame Samsung going this route. That is if they'd done the actual selection screens well. I know that Samsung has been a big fan of Apple for a long time but I'd still keep Apple's search screens out of Android.

Now that you've found your country and other info needed you're set to go, right? Must be... Nope.

This one is so bad that it made me laugh when I saw it. "Need to update spp client" Go google market! Go!

Firstly, some level of spelling checking would probably make sense. I'm not a native English speaker either and I bet that I have more than my fair share of broken English on this site but I'm not a multi-billion dollar corporation. Secondly, what the hell is "spp client"? Am I supposed to know that?

At least pressing the "OK" takes me to the Google Play Store to install some more Samsung crap to my phone. Go google market, go!

Once you install the additional Samsung push services you'll finally be able to use the app.

Rest of the app

Unfortunately, rest of the app follows pretty much the same path as the onboarding experience. It is riddled with very bad design decisions and poor implementation. It sometimes uses action bar items to navigate between screens, tabs are never swipeable and some screens are locked to portrait while others are locked to landscape. 

Christophe Versieux compiled a list of usability issues found in the app (I left out the points I already mentioned above):
  • Still an iOS 2D launcher icon, square with rounded border, not following the slight 3D and silhouette pattern we are used to an Android
  • iOS 7 design (icons, colors)
  • Ads at the bottom that lead to Samsung US website 
  • Use right-pointing carets on line items
  • ActionBar looks bigger, separators are ugly and even displayed when only one item
  • Non scrollable tabs
  • Settings screen (sounds obvious)
  • On the Map they even used the iOS pin!
  • Toast when trying to exit the app
  • Navigation drawer is the sliding menu

You can find the app from Google Play for free at:

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Awesome Android Design - slides by Nick Butcher

Nick Butcher from Google gave a presentation on "Awesome Android Design" in the GDG Sydney meetup. While the presentation itself unfortunately isn't available online the presentation slides are. This slide deck is packed full of important information from beginner to experienced Android designers and developers!

Get the slides from here.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

HTC Maximizes User Frustration with their UX Design

It's a sad day when I have to write a negative post about an app that was built by one of the Android phone manufacturers I really like. But in this case I just cannot not write this.

This app is so full of mistakes in UX design that I don't even know where to start. This app could actually be good but in its current state it is one of the most frustrating apps to use.

Incorrect touch feedback

The app is mostly composed with HTC's custom tile layout. While I'm not personally a fan of it there's really nothing wrong with it. But what I'm not fine with is the deceptive touch feedback on the tiles. For some reason the app wants to make you believe that every tile is tappable. That's not the case, however. While every single tile does react to taps (it gets pressed down) only few of them actually lead to somewhere. The app is lying to users and creating disappointment after disappointment. 

In this example tapping the score or the location doesn't do anything while tapping the team icons and the bottom three tiles actually do.

How to fix: Clearly distinguish tappable components from non-tappable ones. Do not add button down states to components that don't do anything.

Confusing navigation

The app makes users easily confused about where they are in the app's navigation hierarchy. On Android the text on the action bar should always tell the name of the screen where the user is. For some unknown reason HTC has decided to sometimes show the current screen title and sometimes show the title of the screen where the up (back in this app) will take the user when tapped.

Here's couple of examples. On the left I'm reading the highlights of the Champions League. I tap one of the articles and the action bar title now changes to "Highlights".

In the above example the user might still understand what is going on after pausing for a bit and but it is much, much worse elsewhere in the app.

In the example below I'm at the post match screen. The screen title is correct. "Post Match". I tap one of the teams and I'm taken to the team page. But wait a minute!? The screen title now says "Clubs", plural. I've clearly selected Arsenal and every page in the viewpager is only Arsenal related information. The screen title should say "Arsenal".

Now, this took a little bit work to figure out what's happening here (I initially thought that it's just a typo). The reason this screen says "Clubs" in the action bar is that there's another way to get to this screen: via a clubs list. So this screen title is actually a title of a higher level screen that is in another navigation tree. And as they're not implemented the up functionality correctly tapping the up button takes me back to the post match screen. Incredibly misleading!

How to fix:
 Very simple fix in this case as well. The action bar always tells the user where they are. Change each screen to reflect that. The app's up navigation should also be fixed. Up != Back.

Notification spam and incorrect notification title
This app spams the user like no other app I've ever seen. It literally notifies me every minute if I use the app. In fact, I think they have tied a notification to app closing event. Who approved this?

The content of the notification has no value to users.

How to fix:
 Don't do this. This is just stupid.

Another issue with the app's notification is much more minor but still should be fixed. For some reason the app users the app name as the notification title.

How to fix: Notification title should be the event title, not the app title. Just use the match name when there are multiple events in the same notification or the event name when there's only one.

Tablet what?

The app does not scale nicely to larger screens and is locked to portrait.

How to fix: some of the screens in the app work pretty well on larger screens as well. But some could use some large screen love. And remove the portrait locking. Nobody should ever do that.


There you have it. The app is not great but could be. How did the company behind such gems as HTC G1 and Nexus One let this to the store I don't know. I just know that it makes me sad. Let's hope HTC fixes these issues soon.

If you want to try the app yourself you can find it on Google Play.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Going responsive with Google Play - a presentation by the Google Play team

Kirill Grouchnikov often talks about the design and development of Google Play Android app and lets us see behind the curtain of the most used Android app and how to make it work on all devices. In the AnDevCon  Kirill gave a presentation with Marco Paglia "Going Responsive with Google Play". The presentation slides are now available and very much worth taking a look.

Get the slides from Google Drive: Going Responsive with Google Play

Saturday, 2 November 2013

More About Android 4.4 from Google's Developer Advocates and Engineers

There's tons of information about Android 4.4 all over the Android developer site. I bet we've all been sifting through the information overload yesterday and today.  But wait, there's more! Google's engineers and developer advocates have been posting tons of interesting post to Google+ allowing us to deepen our knowledge of the new platform version. Here's a list of few of them.

Nick Butcher posted a good collection of links about the Support Library and Play Services.

Roman Nurik posted links to the updated Device Art Generator as well as links to PSD of the Nexus 5 renderings.

Romain Guy posted two posts about the Android UI framework:
Android 4.4 & rendering pipeline improvements
Batching & merging on Android 4.4

Friday, 1 November 2013

Get Up to Speed with Android 4.4 Design - Watch this: ADiA

I've been reading about new APIs and services available in the new Android 4.4, KitKat, release. It looks like this release is another big step forwards with the platform UI design. Probably the biggest user-facing change is the toning down of the Holo blue colour throughout the system. The system status bar, for example, no longer has blue icons and the Holo blue glow for touch feedback is gone from buttons and scroll edge effects. 
To get a good overview from design point of view to the new platform device the best source is the latest episode of Android Design in Action (ADiA). The Google's team explains many of the platform highlights with examples.

Watch it on YouTube:

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

How Following Android Guidelines Can Change Users' Perception of Your App

Sometimes when installing random apps from Google Play I run into apps that are great positive surprises and stand out from the masses. In this case this app isn't mind blowing or anything like that but it is a good, simple to use and very much an Android app. I'm talking about Hotel Search HRS app.

But before we delve in I want to note that I am in no way associated either with the app developer or the company. Many of the comments in this post are based on educated guess based on the data publicly available.

What made this app interesting was that there seemed to be two of the same apps in the Play Store with different package name and one of the apps with postfix "new" in the name. After digging a bit more it became clear that they have had an app before that have been very unsuccessful. Unfortunately I was not able to find the previous app anymore as they've updated the old app to the new version as well but fortunately AndroidPit still had screenshots of the old app.

Here's how the app used to look like (screenshots by AndroidPit).

Screenshots by AndroidPit

The app reviews tell a grim story about the user reception the previous version had.

Some of my favourite quotes from the user reviews:
"the hitler of mobile apps"
"Worst app ever"
"Good for nothing app Worst app ever made"
"Absolutely Crap"

It also looks like that some carrier or OEM has forced this app on phones without allowing users to uninstall it. It just looks bad on so many levels.