Sunday, 17 July 2011

New tablet apps, CNN - good and bad design

This has been a good week for Android tablet owners. Google released a refresh to the Honeycomb (3.2) and many big names released Tablet versions of their apps.

I took a look at one of the new tablet apps and design solutions, good and bad, they have used.

CNN App for Android Tablet

First launch
Sometimes first launch of an app can take longer than a normal launch. It is a good idea to let users know when that happens. CNN app simply displays a process indicator telling that next time the launch will be faster. 

On the first launch the app also asks if the user wants to see notifications for breaking news. While this approach is better than simply enabling notifications it is still disruptive to the user's workflow. I would strongly recommend that the breaking news notification would be turned off by default. Users would find the option from the menu and turn it on if they want to.

Main UI
The app's main screen is a split view with action bar and tabs. Navigation controls (tabs) are clearly separated from other app controls.

Main content area is basically a workspaces pattern implementation. By swiping users can navigate between different sections (left menu). The actual sliding could have implemented better but in a whole the interaction model is usable. There is a small problems though:
  • Mapping. News topics are lister vertically but swiping between them is done horizontally. In practice this is not probably going to cause any problems to users or even to discoverability of the functionality but this is something to be aware about when designing apps. 

Reading an article
CNN app has one critical design problem. They don't have home button on their screens. The CNN logo in the middle of the action bar doesn't do anything. A simple change would fix the problem. Move the logo to left end of the action bar and make it take user to the app front screen.

User can navigate between articles by swiping. The implementation has few problems:

  • There is no visual indication of swipe gesture being available.
  • User has no information how many articles are available.
  • User has no information of their location in the app.