As many of us have, Blue Bottle founder James Freeman discovered designer (and CH favorite) Joey Roth through his incredibly attractive Ceramic Speakers, which have long been a staple at Blue Bottle’s Brooklyn and Rockefeller Center locations. As……
All posts tagged “Reimagining”
It’s one thing to make a great iOS app, but oftentimes the next step is to reproduce the experience for Android. It’s no easy task.
After gathering experience in that process at Two Toasters, I’ve put together some fundamental principles on reimagining an iOS app for Android.
1. Treat your Android app as a new product.
Despite the temptation to port over UI elements from iOS, it’s important to start from the ground up. Both platforms look, feel, and perform separately from each other.
Step one is to determine how many Android users you could have. If your app has a web counterpart, this part’s easy. Simply segment out the unique Android visitors and there’s a number you can start working with. If not, it’s still worthwhile to try surveying Android-specific users on places like Reddit or Android forums to get an indication of interest in the problem you’re solving. Why go through this effort? The truth is, you could be saving yourself a ton of effort and headache if now is not the right time to think about Android. Just like with any other product, a “we will build it and they will come” mentality isn’t a healthy mindset.
Next, it’s important to define the primary goal of this app. Remember, treating your Android counterpart as a mere copy of your iOS app won’t go well with your potential users. Perhaps your Android app will function differently than the other? Are you seeking to increase conversion? Maybe your goal is simply to grow your user base? It’s not necessarily a given that this goal be the same as your iOS app. The app needs a reason for existence according to your overall business strategy – so identify that reason before you get started.
Last, examine your iOS app and re-evaluate your feature set with your goal in mind. This part’s a bummer, I know. You’ve already spent so much time perfecting your iOS app. But here’s why it’s important: First, you probably have limited resources. The longer you wait to get your product out, the more you stand to lose market share with competitors. Equally important, your Android and iOS customers are different kinds of users. Sure, they’re both humans; but consider the two differing ecosystems. What your app offers may have redundancies on the Android platform as opposed to iOS. Identify how your app fits on the platform, then build accordingly.
2. Design your app to adapt
It’s no secret that device fragmentation on Android is a big challenge. But tackling adaptive layouts that uniquely target varying resolutions can be a Sisyphean struggle. Instead, design an aesthetic and layout that can expand and contract gracefully. Then see if you can optimize experiences around the more popular resolution blocks.
It can be a laborious process, but here are some tips to help:
- Learn about Density Independent Pixels (dp) and Scale-Independent Pixels (sp). This is essential in understanding how your UI elements will be sized.
- Rely on native elements where possible. They’re already designed to respond to differing resolutions and incredibly easy to restyle by just replacing the default theme assets.
- Use responsive design strategies such as:
- defining layouts with margin insets instead of fixed-widths,
- using columns (particularly with grids) whose counts are based on screen-width,
- letting images/photography scale-to-fit your UI elements while maintaining their aspect ratio,
- having lists expand fluidly, but anticipating where elements fall, and
- setting max-widths to portrait and landscape views to keep lines of text from getting too long.
- Tile background images or use 9patches to stretch them. Minimizing your assets will reduce the memory footprint of your application.
- Cut assets for at least HDPI, XHDPI and XXHDPI. These are the higher density resolutions–for everything lower, Android will automatically scale assets down.
- Optimize for a landscape experience. Tablets, phablets; these sort of devices are practically meant for landscape viewing. Think about what information can be pulled into another column, what elements can be consolidated, and if more information can be provided in a landscape orientation.
3. Take advantage of the Android platform’s differences.
Android is characteristically a less limited platform than iOS. So why not re-imagine the app to take advantage of these freedoms? Make it unique to Android users, not just available to them.
First, read the Android Design Guidelines. This will be an invaluable resource in helping internalize Android so you can build a good native experience.
Navigation can be a bit different on Android. Spend some time on the platform and gain a sense of its differing paradigms. An app that adheres to the analogous structure of iOS will surely feel different than the native structure of Android. Of course not all navigation structures should be similar, but figure out if there is one that makes more sense than that found in your iOS version. This is particularly relevant if you’ve decided on a feature set that isn’t a parity for your iOS app. (Hint: pay attention to Google’s own apps. The way they solved navigation problems probably didn’t have iOS navigation in mind.)
Build widgets. They’re an awesome tool to encourage customization, iOS doesn’t have them, they can expand the functionality of your app, and they give more real estate for you to reach your users. But make sure you do it right: Does it just let your user access media controls? Does it quickly throw them into a section on your app? Does it display information? (If so, make sure it stays fresh.) In all these cases, apply the same responsive strategies as before, but optimize for smaller areas. Especially since your user likely prefers that the widget be resizable.
Design your app icon with transparency. It doesn’t actually have to be a rounded square. The guidelines suggest following a follow a three dimensional, top front view. However, you can be creative about the shape, angle and aesthetic of the icon. Just remember that it has to scale down to very small sizes. An icon can be well designed, but if it’s too-reliant on miniscule details, it could end up not looking quite right in practical use.
See if other Android apps could do some of the work for you. Tying in with other apps means you don’t have to build every piece of functionality yourself and makes the Android experience more integrated for the user. For example, if you’re linking to web content, push it to chrome. (Building your own web views can be clunky.) If you need the user to capture audio, photos or videos, link to them to a media recording app that handle these well. Use the native share action provider so that you can easily share out to any app that accepts the style of content you want to share without having to build it out yourself.
Make the app international! For instance, separating copy in a strings file makes it easier to update to other languages. Although, you should remember to design the content and UI elements with added strings of information in mind. It’s possible your content cells may need to have content flow from right to left or even expand to fit longer strings when translated. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about the actual conversion; a recent update to the Play Store has added the ability to hire translators.
Update often. The Play Store allows developers to release updates much more quickly than the iOS App Store. It even allows you to do alpha and beta releases so that you can update a small percentage of users at a time, letting you work out kinks before shipping to everyone. Taking advantage of the Play Store’s update mechanisms will demonstrate to the users your active investment in improving the app.
And speaking of your users; listen to them. This is perhaps the best advice when converting to Android. A user is required to authenticate with a Google+ account when leaving reviews, which means that you can directly correlate the reviewer with their actual identity. So take the time to reply to comments and respond to feedback personally. Dialogue with your users not only helps in building a great app according to their feedback, but promotes a loyal user base that’ll stick with your app as it grows.
Education in America faces tough challenges. Innovative solutions to these challenges can be found when teachers and students apply service design to the classroom, solving short-term problems while also giving students long-term skills.
The 21st-century, American classroom faces major challenges. The threat of the privatization of schools1), the lack of funding, and the erosion of traditional societal institutions, has forced schools to take on the roles of “priests, psychologists, therapists, political reformers, social workers, sex advisers, or parents.”2 Now more than ever, schools are expected to not only teach children subject matter, but to teach life skills as well.
This, in turn, fundamentally changes the teacher’s role in the classroom. Further, legal mandates for test-based performance evaluation have not only trickled down to the teacher’s workload, but threatened their very job. After all, if a computer can teach individualized math better than a teacher and students get higher test scores, why are teachers needed?3 This threat is most acutely manifest by the proliferation of online courses. Michael Sandel of San Jose State University recently foreshadowed the future of higher education in an open letter to fellow professors stating, “Let us not kid ourselves…administrators at C.S.U. are beginning a process of replacing faculty with cheap online education.”4 For teachers at all levels, overcoming internal and external pressures and continuing to provide fundamental value requires an innovative re-envisioning of the classroom and making it a shared experience, one that cannot be replicated by an automaton.
Teachers must overcome the digital-age metaphor of learning, one which compares the human to a computer, putting knowledge into memory, emphasizing logic and measurable outcomes. Teachers must define their role not as data providers, but service providers. The two-fold purpose of education is to teach students to think critically about their world and, ultimately, to teach them to become good citizens. The Service Design techniques and tools – building empathy, customer journey maps, and prototyping – which originally arose to help businesses ideate on tough, multi-faceted problems, should now be used in the classroom to help teachers re-imagine and co-create the student experience.
Class in empathy
Before starting any service design project, designers work to understand the primary actors in their system – indeed, this is a foundational premise for any human-centered design endeavor.
Despite this, teacher‘s often overlook the classroom‘s primary actors, the students. After all, most teachers reason, “I was once a student myself. How could my students experience differ from our own? Neil Postman, the educational scholar and cultural critic, points out the fallacy in this logic:
Most teachers…teach subjects they were good at in school. They found the subject both easy and pleasurable. As a result, they are not likely to understand how the subject appears to those who are not good at it, or don’t care about it, or both.
Teachers, while well-intentioned, may have trouble empathizing with students struggling to understand the curricula or how it relates to them. As a practice in empathy, Postman goes so far as to suggest that teachers teach a subject they are bad at for a year as a way to gain understanding of how many students might feel in their classroom.
From a service-design perspective, teachers can bring more empathy into the classroom by giving students a voice. What do students like to do? What do students want to learn? A simple interview or class discussion can prove quite enlightening. Even switching roles where the student teaches for a day would prove to be enlightening of the other’s experience for both student and teacher.
The student journey
For further insight, students and teacher could employ another service design tool known as the Customer Journey Map. Customer Journey Maps trace the main actors in a system as they interact with its various touchpoints. This, in turn, helps designers discover opportunity areas that might benefit from creative problem solving.
As a classroom activity, a teacher can guide students in groups through making their own “student” journey map of several different time periods: the student’s experience in the teacher’s class, the school day, the student’s year, or even the student‘s entire school career. Doing so provides the teacher with deep insights about what students do outside of his or her classroom. If History class comes after an English class, for example, there might be an opportunity for cross-disciplinary learning cross-class relevant topics might emerge. Understanding the context of the class and getting insights from other classrooms can lead teachers to discover techniques students enjoy in other classrooms and use them in their own. Teachers may even get tough critique and suggestions on how to improve their own classroom from the stakeholders that really matter, the students.
A student journey map exercise also carries the potential to provide deep insight into a student’s life outside of the school environment: what other challenges do students face that might affect their academic performance? By identifying pain points, students and teachers can collaboratively brainstorm possible solutions, creating the ideal journey map to understand how students might better enjoy their school experience. This exercise places both student and teacher in a design mindset understanding that the classroom setting does not have to remain in the status quo. Furthermore, even if student ideas are not implemented, students will be left with the notion that their voice was important, was heard, and did contribute to the structure of their classroom experience.
Life imitates life
Once the teacher and students have created a new classroom model, they should try it out to see if it works. If it’s a success, great. If it’s a failure, even better. As John Dewey, the great 20th-century philosopher and educational theorist wrote, “Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.” Furthermore, this trial-and-error mentality cultivates one of the principle purposes of education, critical thinking.
Postman, again, writes:
When we incorporate the lives of our ancestors in our education, we discover that some of them were great error-makers, some great error-correctors, some both. And in discovering this, we accomplish three things. First, we help students to see that knowledge is a stage in human development, with a past and a future. Second…we acquaint students with the people and ideas that comprise “cultural literacy” – that is to say, give them some understanding of where their ideas come from and how we came by them. And third, we show them that error is no disgrace, that it is the agency through which we increase understanding.5
Teachers should encourage the prototyping of an idea and create an environment that allows for failure. This should permeate not only into the ideas and environment that students and their teachers co-create, but also into the students’ ability to jump into new learning feeling comfortable with the possibility of failure.
When students and teachers use service design tools to re-imagine their classrooms they fulfill the key purposes of education: thinking critically and being a productive member of society. Through collaboration and group decision making, students learn what it takes to organize and empathize. This makes them better citizens. By being part of their own classroom’s design, students understand that they have an important voice that can lead to change, skills applicable well beyond the classroom.
Designers think critically, and students and teachers must, too. By using Service Design techniques, teachers learn to better understand their students and their changing role in the 21st-century classroom. Instead of the “authoritarian ruler” in charge of imparting a narrow set of knowledge, the teacher becomes a choreographer, setting up the environment to teach and take into account the whole student. Through the Service Design process, both student and teacher realize that the classroom is a prototype that might sometimes fail but never fails to produce some kind of learning.
Excited about the intersection of service design and the classroom? Curious about how to further apply Service Design in Education? Check out these resources and examples:
- An Educator’s Guide to Design Thinking, from Stanford
- IDEO‘s Design Thinking for Educators
- Frog‘s Collective Action Toolkit
Note: Service Design Tools are referenced from http://servicedesigntools.org/repository.
- “Secondly, we have seen an increased role for national nonprofit and for-profit organizations in providing educational services, and in acting as self-interested players in school politics.” John Thompson, “Seismic Shifts in Education Policy”
- Neil Postman, The End of Education, 143.
- Motoko Rich, “Study Gauges Value of Technology in Schools.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/education/study-gauges-value-of-technology-in-schools.html?_r=0
- Let us not kid ourselves,” the letter said, “administrators at C.S.U. are beginning a process of replacing faculty with cheap online education.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/education/online-classes-fuel-a-campus-debate.html
- Neil Postman, The End of Education, 125.