Google, Ice Cream Sandwich And The UI Consistency Conundrum
An inconsistent UI is hard on users. In the case of Android, there are a lot of apps that have UI’s that are inconsistent with Android UI such as re-mapping hardware buttons or placing features normally access via hardware buttons on-screen and it makes using those apps, and Android in general, more difficult because users have to guess what to do next. Google has devoted quite a bit of time in developing guidelines and navigation tips to help developers build consistent apps. Perhaps this is where Apple succeeds by enforcing UI guidelines (I don’t use an iPhone, so I don’t know but it is what my buddies tell me).
Guidelines are guidelines and developers aren’t forced to follow them, but if Google won’t follow it’s own advice, why should developers?
I got a shiny new Galaxy Nexus. It’s a great phone and runs Android 4, aka Ice Cream Sandwich. With this big screen, I wanted to see what video formats it supported, so I, gasp, decided to see what Help had to say. I hit the Menu key and found Help.
Which opens the browser and takes me to the top of the help page.
Getting started seemed like a good place to start, so I end up here:
I won’t drag you through the rest of the clicks, but notice that I hit Help, opened a browser app, and navigated through the web pages. I then hit the back button. Where do you supposed I ended up? Where would you expect to end up? Back one page? Back to the top of the Help system? Back to the App?
Me? I expected to go back one page, because, ya know, I was in the browser and when I hit Back in any browser, I expect to go back one page. Here is where I landed when I hit the Back button:
Back to the app. That makes no sense. I am familiar with how Android’s App stack works, but I wasn’t leaving the app. That wasn’t my intention. I wanted to go back a page. To do that, I had to click the top most item which is a different step from what people would normally do. If I open the browser manually or from a URL and navigate pages, the Back key works properly and I go back one page. Now I have to remember “If using the browser to view Google Help, go find the link to take me back. If using the browser to view web pages, use the Back key.”
Bad Google. Bad.