Mar 19, 2013

Applying Android Design Vision to Communications

Android UXOne of the best things about SxSW is hearing the people behind the products and services,we use today detail their journeys, providing a behind-the-scenes view of the thinking and processes that went into product design.  A session I attended featured two of Android’s leading ladies in UX and design, and they revealed the principles they used to focus their design on people

Speakers Helena Roeber and Rachel Garb are two of the driving forces behind Google’s Android platform. Rober spearheaded Android’s user experience for the last five years, and Garb, who leads leads interaction design for Android apps at Google, summarized their people-oriented design vision simply: Enchant Me. Simplify My Life. Make Me Amazing.

Android UX3

Roeber and Garb found that design affects emotion and we now have an opportunity/responsibility as developers to tap into the emotions of our users in a positive way. When they created the vision, they intentionally created this in the first person so that it reflected the vision of their users, not of themselves. “We wanted to speak more to people’s hearts [with our designs]“, Roeber said.

I found this to be very interesting as this was a new concept for me.  As a product manager we often get caught up in the nuts and bolts of our product that we sometimes forget what the main goal should be: how are users feel when they interact with it.  Garb pointed out that for every interaction that triggers a negative emotion, 3 positive ones must be offered to lift your user back up.  People tend to blame themselves when things go wrong with technology.  So what Garb and Roeber did was look at the negative emotions through a year-long study of observations called the “Android Baseline Study” and asked themselves how they could turn these into positive principles and to use these principles to create beautiful, usable and innovative design.  They realized that little annoyances had the power to destroy all the magic you’ve created.

Example:  Feedback: Users tend to be overwhelmed by too many options and limitless flexibility.

Turned into the principle:  Only show what I need, when I need it.

They went on to contextually explain each principle and how they came to be and it was quite interesting, but in the end, it made sense!  Why wouldn’t positive emotions reflect a better user experience?   It even opened up my eyes to how things are phrased and worded in the user interface.  Android refuses to use the phrase “Are you sure?” in their UI because it invokes a negative emotion by placing doubt or uncertainty on the user.

What I also liked was that it wasn’t just about stimulating positive emotions, but individual emotions based solely on the things that are important to me.  In a world full of so much information being thrown at you from so many different directions, connecting to your user on an individual level is more important than ever!

Google Now, the newest technology launching from the Android team that was announced at SXSW was created using these principles.  It goes beyond any traditional method and applies the “Delight Me in Surprising Ways” principle on a whole new level by automatically pulling information that is important to you only by learning who you are.  What’s the weather like where you are?  What’s the traffic situation for your commute to work? What’s your favorite coffee shop, here’s a coupon. No preferences need to be made, it gets to know you and learns your habits.  This allows it to adjust to you and only shows you what’s important to you. The cool thing is that it reconfigures each time so it won’t remember old habits if things have changed in your life!

So what does this mean?  As a product person, this definitely gives me some guidelines in how to approach the decisions we make on how to make our products better.  So the next time we  are looking at what next new innovative feature should be applied to our product or what next NEW product we should develop, we’ll pose this question as our clients — Are you enchanting us? Are you simplifying our lives? Are you making us amazing? And remember the emotion involved when it comes to our users!

Resource: Design Principles:  http://developer.android.com/design/get-started/principles.html

Author Erika Kash is an online services product manager with MultiVu, a PR Newswire company.

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