Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Bad, outdated UX will be rejected by users

Microsoft gave a valuable lesson to any company relying on old data on user acceptance of old design on Android. Yesterday, they released a new app for their outlook.com on Android. Well, when I say "new app" I mean they changed few strings in the strings files and replaced couple of icons and released the old hotmail app as a outlook.com app.

What makes this interesting is the difference in reception of the app by the users. The hotmail app seems to be generally liked by the users and has a OK 4.2 rating average at the time of writing this.



The new outlook.com app is a whole different story. At the time of writing this it has a very poor 2.0 rating average.



Let's take a look at the two apps. How do they differ?




The apps are identical, what has changed?

As we see from the screenshots, the apps are identical. There is no difference in user experience and no difference in the visuals either (other than the icon). Why are the users rejecting the new app while they like the old one?

The reason is simple. Android has changed. Post 4.0 Android has clear design guidelines and app style, holo. New apps look great and very different from what they used to look on Android 2.3. The old style looks very much out of place on the newer devices. And that is exactly what's going on here. The outlook.com app (as well as the hotmail app) are styled with the old 2.3 style.

This happens if you bring a new app to the market with old styling. Users are more forgiving if your app is old and they've been using it before the Android 4.0 guide and style gained momentum.


Conclusion

The bottom line here is that if you have an existing app on the Google Play and are planning to publish a new app using the old app as reference to define success of your existing design, well don't! Times have changed in the Android world. New apps need to follow the design guidelines to be successful. Don't bring old 2.3 design to new apps. Take the time to figure out how apps should look and go with that. In fact, implementing the new design is often easier than the old. Libraries like the ActionBarSherlock will help you by giving a lot of functionality to you for free.


[UPDATE] Taylor over at Android UX blog did some redesign for the app. This is how it could look like: http://androiduiux.com/2012/11/29/outlook-com-app-redesigned/