Saturday, 9 July 2011

Trending Android UI anti-patterns

Anti-pattern is a commonly used design solution that is counterproductive in practice [wikipedia]. There are few of them that seem to be trending in Android application design. I don't want to point fingers or demean the apps I've chosen as examples. They were chosen just to use them to explain each of the anti-patterns. 

Forced login
I've written about not forcing users to login before but the problem seems to be getting worse in the Android Market so I want to bring it up again.

Users find apps on mobile platforms in different way than they do elsewhere. We shouldn't assume that users know what the app is all about. They might have stumbled on the app from an Android Market listing and everything they know about it is the app icon.

If the app only shows a login screen when first launched the app will lose a lot of users. If that is the first time a user sees the app it is likely that he or she won't go through the trouble of creating an account.

Podio is a good example of an app with this problem. They have tried to fix the problem by providing a link to their "about" web page on the landing screen. That doesn't fix the problem. Users would get much better understanding of benefits of signing up if they could simply try the app. Not many people are willing to read long text explanations about apps they don't know.




Bad defaults
Default preferences of any app will greatly affect users' first impression of the app. Designers and developers should be extra careful with notifications as they can affect user experience outside their app. Safe expectation is that user's don't want to see notifications unless they are from activity the user has initialised.

This app adds a notification by default.


Confusing landing screen
The first page of an app is very important. If users are confused by the first screen it is likely that they will not continue to use the app. Apps with a lot of functionality should organise the functionality in easily understandable categories. Dashboard UI design pattern can often solve this issue.

This app's landing screen is overwhelming.