Every once and awhile you have to just put something out there. You have to open up and speak out, hoping that maybe what you are screaming to the wind can be heard by someone out there who actually hears you. You hope that person(s) take what you are saying to heart and it inspires them to simply do better.
Here is my challenge to you. BUILD FOR TODAY. I initially thought “Let me post this on Google+ and maybe I’ll write something more eloquent on thedroideffect.com at a later date, but this is something that has weighed and is weighing heavily on my mind. This year at Google I/O 2014, we finally witnessed Google turning their attention to Design and the user experience when it comes to Android apps. This is an area Android has gotten criticized for in the past and continues to get criticized for today. As a person that still uses iOS devices, along with my Android devices I see the difference in presentation between applications on Android and iOS every day. Keep in mind I used the word PRESENTATION and not QUALITY because QUALITY would imply that iOS applications generally are better than Android applications in both form and function and this is categorically untrue. I can concede that iOS does (in my opinion) have many more polished applications from a UX perspective and certainly has more big box developer applications for Video and Music Creation. However, this is not negate the raw functionality and flexibility of the apps found in the Android ecosystem. There is simply no equal on iOS to apps like Link Bubble, AGENT, Tasker, NOVA Launcher, SkipLock or others that are exclusively Android, and not only provide you form; but fundamentally change how you utilize your device. But despite all I’ve just said, I still feel iOS has a leg up in this space. Why? Why is it that Android has apps that can fundamentally alter your Smartphone experience and yet we have applications that still utilize elements that look like they came out of Gingerbread (Feedly settings menu)?
I threw this question out on G+ and as always the amazing community of my friends, followers and even those I follow and respect responded with their thoughts. Though I received many responses with many perspectives; I took away five key points and possibilities (I’m paraphrasing here):
- iOS Developers and Engineers are easier to find and hire than Android Engineers and Developers. – +Jean-Baptiste “JBQ” Queru
- Developers have to worry about developing for multiple versions of Android, each version has different API’s and tools provided to the developer that impact the presentation of the application. Therefore, polish is the last thing that is considered when you are working on trying to get an app published across Android. – +Francisco Tapia
- Developers have to develop for the lowest common denominator. There are still a ton of folks running Gingerbread and other lower versions of Android, just look at the distribution numbers. – +Rohan Blake
- Some developers are simply lazy or don’t really focus their energy on design. It’s not a limitation of Android, it’s more the effort a developer wants to put in. – +Scott Wilson
- It’s about Money. – +Scooty B
Despite the hurdles or challenges developers face in the Android space. If it’s these five possible challenges or others; I challenge you to simply do better and Build for today. Android L seems to be a turning point. Material design is something that looks like it’s here to stay, and not in the short-term but for many years to come. The Google team has laid out this design not just for Android, but for the web through Polymer as well. This is how you know Google is serious, when they put effort into not only Android but the web in an effort to unify the design. HOLO didn’t get this kind of effort and no matter how great it looked it never was fully adopted by developers. But if you look at the successful apps in the Play Store the implement some level of HOLO. They are modern, the are beautiful and they provide both form and function. they ar enot all developed by big companies. Look at Amber Reader by +Zhe Lu and Toby Shorin, look at Reddit Sync by +Laurence Dawson, look at Link Bubble or Action Launcher by +Chris Lacy, how about Today Calendar by +Jack Underwood. I could go on and on, but these are examples of developers and applications that are getting it right. Right now Luke Klinker is probably plugging away at the Material version of Talon. Don’t say it can’t be done, because it has been and continues to be everyday. The problem is that it’s not being done enough.
My challenge to developers is to do better, Build for today. Follow the guidelines and if you have a better idea or want to be unique, do so by all means. Just ensure that you stay close to the guidelines and use the modern API’s and tools in L. Stop developing for people on Gingerbread, they are not the ones that are willing to pay more for your modern application. Your base of hardcore application users are on 4.0 and above, we are that large percentage on JB and up. Developers can charge more for your work and you can make more money on your applications in Android. If your app isn’t selling at the $4 price point, maybe it’s not worth $4. Look at Link bubble or Nova they are $4 applications and they sell just fine. You get what you put in. The problem isn’t that Android customers are “Cheap” or “Unwilling to pay for quality apps”. No. it’s just the opposite. We want to spend money, but we want high quality applications.
To Android consumers my challenge to you is to demand more from the developers and by that I am not talking about demanding dumb things that an app is not designed to do in the first place. If an app has great function but does not have the form or design then don’t give it a 5 star review. Be thoughtful in your feedback on the Play Store, tell the dev you gave it three stars (Or less than 5) because the design sucks. This is called “Accountability”, if we don’t hold developers accountable for sub par products how are they to ever know it’s sub par? If they are getting 5 star reviews on an app that’s ugly as sin, then they will keep producing like applications, it’s that simple. Gone are the days of “Oh, that’s good enough because it’s Android”. Android now has a beautiful design direction in L. It now has more tools and API’s (5000 more) for developers to use than ever before. Developers have been given a developer preview months before a final release. There is NO REASON that when Android L is released that we should be seeing crappy apps or apps that don’t have updates released that day or within a week or so of the final roll-out. Here is my promise to developers, as a customer
- I will give you a less than 5 stars if your app has crappy design or it’s not to the guidelines.
- The app will never receive five stars unless it has both elements
- I will not use an application that does not at least try to follow the guidelines.
- I will call out and recognize any application that does make this effort. I will also do the same for those that are crap
- I will continue to write thoughtful reviews for any apps that I purchase.
- Lastly, I will seek an interview and or try my best to support you (as a developer) and your app using G+ and whatever social media means I can to recognize excellence and draw attention to your application. Success should be rewarded.
I know this was a long one but I had a lot to say. I want to live you guys with this. I combed through the Google I/O developer conferences for developers and pulled some links together of some key moments from each conference. Some of these clips are of the entire meeting, other start with a question from an audience member who is a developer that asked a question about something that I thought was very important. But I leave you with my favorite question and answer of the entire conference. It came from a developer who was asking “With L’s focus on Lush animations and all these flashy elements like the drop shadows and transitions. How will emerging market devices and older devices fair”? the answer was simple. Google thought of this, and actually developed these effects using the oldest devices they could find to make sure they worked on them. This is a perfect echoing of my thoughts. In L don’t worry about building for the lowest powered device. Build for NOW and let that other stuff work itself out. Your market is 4.0+ not 3.0 and below.
Thanks for reading.
Here are the videos I pulled together.
Material Design: Motion – http://youtu.be/FBD0VlcVS1E?t=20m50s API’s provided to help with motion design regarding animations.
Material Witness: http://youtu.be/97SWYiRtF0Y?t=40m13s – No memory constraints so doesn’t sound like devs need to worry about the animations and all the new things taxing the phone.
Android Fireside Chat: How hard will it be to make my app Material compliant? http://youtu.be/K3meJyiYWFw?t=10m51s
Android Fireside Chat: Access API’s for previous versions of Android: http://youtu.be/lSH9aKXjgt8?t=36m6s
And I would watch this video because it has all the important stuff. Android fireside chat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3meJyiYWFw
Material Science: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSH9aKXjgt8#t=2178