Android OS Conformance: How Many Apps are Getting it Wrong?

Android is now the number one Mobile platform worldwide and as a result we’re seeing an increased interest among our clients in how to compete in the global application marketplace. Google Play, formerly the Android Marketplace has become the competitive hot spot for installations onto mobile devices and tablets, yet; somehow, a number of apps/app developers are getting it wrong! We’ve noted that a number of players have yet to adhere to the defined Android OS development guidelines. Let’s take a look at a few examples where a clear understanding of guidelines would improve the usability of a provided app.

Take figure 1: The Chase Mobile app.
Android OS Conformance
A few issues jump out that appear to be quick-fix usability problems. First, the bottom menu bar seen here is being phased out because newer phones don’t possess the touch buttons that run on Android 4.1 (Jellybean). You might note that it also takes up a considerable amount of screen space making it undesirable. On the right hand side you can see the right pointing carets (sic) which are an iOS feature, not an Android OS feature. Additionally, at the top there is no indication of which app you’re presently using, or how to navigate backward to previous screens. We’re thinking that there should be an action bar of some kind to help with navigation within the app. Finally, after looking more closely at figure 1 you may have also noted that there is no Chase Bank insignia or identification. Despite the familiar design for iOS users, the app seems to have a number of usability issues that are easy to identify. While an iOS user may find this App is easy to use, Android OS users have reportedly found the interface to be confusing and we predict that such a user is at risk to abandon.

Generally, we've learned that our Android OS users expect to see apps that are in the Android OS style, design, and user interface (UI). We’ve also noted that when engaged in a head to head comparison, it’s common for Android OS to have a completely different User Experience (UX) than the iOS audience providing evidence to reconsider a direct transfer of iOS designed apps into the Google Play store. Google agrees: “Most developers want to distribute their apps on multiple platforms. As you plan your app for Android, keep in mind that different platforms play by different rules and conventions. Design decisions that make perfect sense on one platform will look and feel misplaced in the context of a different platform. While a "design once, ship anywhere" approach might save you time up-front, you run the very real risk of creating inconsistent apps that alienate users. Consider [following the] guidelines to avoid the most common traps and pitfalls.”

Our biggest bit of advice: Alienating your user base can be dangerous and wreak havoc on your ROI. We've seen an increasing investment into the development of Mobile and Tablet Applications and given the spending we recommend careful consideration of your user base when making decisions about how to approach and handle the various operating systems.
Android OS
Our clients often ask us how to gain a competitive edge against other apps in their product category and we provide several customized options for them. Adherence to these guidelines is the easiest first step. Specifically, one option is to improve the app navigation by using gestures that Android OS users might be used to. A "side swipe" is familiar to Android users, in our user testing we have seen frustration among Android as they repeatedly attempt to navigate to the next screen by trying to use the "side swipe" gesture. A "side swipe" reduces the reloading caused by the back and forward buttons.
figure 3

Another element that is often overlooked in apps is the use of Android OS style Icons and functions. Something as simple as selecting the date or time has a specific User Interface (UI) that Google specifies as the standard to use. If one deviates from the Android OS “picker” and “spinner” (figure 2), users become confused.

We maintain that the less the user has to think, the better they will be able to do what they want to do within the app. A strong overall User Experience (UX) is an important central function to fulfilling the user’s desired intentions; giving the user the ability to do what they want, when they want it, in an easy and intuitive manner. We’re well versed with what constitutes a strong UX and help our clients bring that to their current and future customers.

We’ve developed an Android OS checklist to quickly determine if your solution is meeting today’s published Android OS guidelines. We encourage you to test your own site: To get your checklist inquire here.

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