Saturday, January 28, 2012

Streamlining Android Interfaces

During our Streaming Media Europe 2011 presentation on video challenges and opportunities for the Android OS, an audience member raised the question of UX (or user interface) designs being inconsistent.

As I showed in my presentation slides, and detailed in response to the audience members question, we had to add additional time into our testing methodology to compensate for the hodgepodge of UX designs—a problem that's consistently plagued the open-source operating system spread across dozens of handset manufacturers and hundreds of wireless service provider networks

Scott Main, lead tech writer for, put together an informative blog post ("Say Goodbye to the Menu Button") on the need for streamline interfaces.

The post was published on Tim Bray's blog and has garnered attention for the more consistent and, one hopes, minimalistic approach to Android interfaces .

Now that Ice Cream Sandwich is gaining steam—and not just for its use of Apple HTTP Live Streaming, or HLS—Main writes that it's time to retire the overused fourth wheel, the Menu button catch-all that impacts so many pre 3.0 Android device interfaces.

"If I had to put this whole post into one sentence," wrote Main, "it’d be [this]: Set targetSdkVersion to 14 and, if you use the options menu, surface a few actions in the action bar with showAsAction="ifRoom"."

It's about time we moved Android UX to a consistent approach, and eliminating the fallback Menu button is a good first step...

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