I recently switched from an iPhone to an Android and I’ve found the transition to be both exciting and frustrating. I’ll talk about all the exciting bits later. Here’s my frustration and my advice to the manufacturers making Android phones out there.
If you want to lure iPhone users to your new device, do one thing: subtract.
There’s too much on these Android devices. Too much of everything. In my opinion, the Android OS offers too much customization, leaving some users confused. But this is a double-edged sword, with benefits as much as disadvantages, and worthy of its own post.
One thing is for sure. There are way, way too many apps on the device when you buy it. Why does the consumer have to wade through all these crappy “sponsored” apps that they don’t want on the phone? When you buy an iPhone, you get just that. An iPhone. It does not come with a lousy News and Weather App. It sure as hell doesn’t come with an ATT&T app on it.
And there’s too much branding. Why do I have to watch a Samsung ad and an ATT&T ad every time the phone starts up? If I was to go one further, I’d tell Samsung to grow a pair and take the ATT&T logo off the phone itself.
Less is more. Get out of the way with all these ‘extras’ so your consumer can enjoy the technology. Instead of a smiley face on my texts, I now get a smiling Android robot. What would you think if iPhone texts came with grinning Apple cores?
If it’s not useful and it’s not pretty, get rid of it.
All the manufacturers out there need to take a page from Apple on this one.
Reduce, refrain, restrain. Sometimes all you want is a smile.
Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have recently reported on the imminent demise of Google+. In these social ‘prebituaries,’ the reporters tackle the issue of user numbers admirably, but in their zeal, they also get a bit carried away and say things like, Google+ is a “desolate wasteland” or use the example of one photographer’s departure as indicative of the entire social site’s failures when - I know for a fact -Google+ is brimming with beautiful images from professional photographers.
The Wall Street Journal really got the bit between its teeth and let the horse lead the rider when it printed the following:
Facebook and Twitter helped change the way people discover new things on the Web, rivaling Google as the chief gateway to the Internet.
Facebook is now rivaling Google as the chief gateway to the Internet?
You have to be frickin’ kidding me right?
Facebook is a gateway to Facebook. If you want to get to the rest of the web, you use what’s called a search engine.
And right now you can do that one of three ways: you can choose Bing. You can use Yahoo (otherwise known as Bing), or in the case of 66.2% us, we Google it.
And I think 66.2% is enough of a majority to safely say that Google still owns search.
Despite its excitement over Google+ biting the dust, The New York Times does seem to suggest Google is approaching “social” in quite a different way than Facebook, explaining how Vic Gundotra (Google’s vice president for engineering) sees “Google Plus as a social blanket that envelopes the entire Google experience.”
What’s the Google “experience” he’s referring to - well it could be YouTube, or Chrome or Android apps, but it is most certainly one thing. Search.
And let’s clarify that until something really big changes, a search engine defines how we experience the web. You cannot navigate your own ship. I think people forget sometimes that somewhere, out there someone has created a formula and that’s what determines what pops up on your browser. You don’t control it. You can influence it, sure. But you’re not really in charge. And guess what, neither is Facebook.
Facebook is found in a search. It does not power search. In fact, anyone who’s tried to search within Facebook and who doesn’t end up either weeping or swearing is a more patient human than I.
That makes search a pretty powerful ally to Google in these social wars and don’t doubt that Google plans to leverage it.
I think it’s safe to say that Google has more in mind than playing catch-up with Facebook as the WSJ suggests.
I would like the media to sit down with Facebook (preferably Zuckerberg himself) and ask the following question: How can a social site such as Facebook that’s so huge and profitable get away with offering its users such abominable search functionality?
Wroblewski was co-founder of Bagcheck, Chief Design Architect (VP) at Yahoo! Inc, and co-founder of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) just to name a few so yeah…he knows his stuff.
The premise of the book is both simple and quite groundbreaking: you should design the mobile version of your website first. Yep- you out there, with your e-commerce store (with really cool t-shirts, btw) or the non-profit making a positive impact on the environment, or the media company targeted at women (age 18-35)- you should all design a mobile site. Now.
He has a number of valid points as to why. For one, the sheer mind-shattering growth of mobile.
But in addition to the sheer volume of mobile use that’s taking place, there’s another reason we should adopt mobile first thinking. Mobile web design is inherently limited.
And this, says Wroblewski, is a good thing.
You have a much smaller screen size and you have to take on the realities of spotty coverage (for now) and a user who’s prolly pretty distracted. Although it’s a myth that mobile is most often used outside of the home (84% of people use their mobile phone at home). They’re still often using a mobile device in ‘shorter bursts,’ while doing something else, forcing us to create web design that can, as Wrobleski says, work for “one eyeball and one thumb.”
Navigation takes a backseat to content. Yea!
Get rid of all those sub navs. Only what’s absolutely essential stays in.
Mobile requires information architects and UX folks work harder and get their user what he needs immediately. (This is in part because “urgency” is one of the key reasons people use their smartphones. And when you read the book you can see all the other “critical mobile behaviors.”)
But, isn’t that what every site should do anyway? Get us what we need right away?
Cut out all the extraneous fluff often used in traditional web design and build simpler, cleaner, more user-friendly websites.
You also need to everything you can to speed up load time. (Again. What you should be doing anyway for the desktop.)
Over and over, he explains how this ‘design under duress’ makes us better at design itself.
Wroblewski goes on to list the many advantages of designing for mobile: location detection, device orientation and of course -the many advantages of touch-enabled screens, which is both organic and offers the user many creative, intuitive means to interact with the web.
Although he does touch on native application or apps- Wroblewski seems to be pushing for adoption of a mobile web solution because- as he quotes Jason Grigsby, “Web links don’t open apps, they go to web pages.”
It’s true the browser is still inherently limited without (yet) access to hardware features such as the camera, audio etc (but this, I believe is changing and may be possible on the Android OS through HTML 5)
In my mind, designing for the browser makes sense as it decreases the current fragmentation you see that’s inherent to stand-alone native apps.
The issue of fragmentation is a big one and another blog post altogether. Many folks have been writing on it recently particularly after the announcement that Facebook, Microsoft and Mozilla (talk about strange bedfellows!) are forming a consortium to “clean up the mobile web” and address this issue of severe fragmentation.
In the meantime- I suggest you grab a copy of Mobile First. It covers a lot of ground, but is simply written and packed with powerful information, making it useful for everyone- from web designers to tech enthusiasts such as myself.
You’re gonna need it because soon-much sooner than you might expect- the mobile web just might be… the only web.