As the new Android Pie is seen on Google: interviews on design, simplicity and digital wellbeing

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As the new Android Pie is seen on Google: interviews on design, simplicity and digital wellbeing

At first glance, Android 9 Pie looks a lot like Oreo, especially if you're a regular user. But while Google hasn't redesigned the overall paradigm of the phone interface or added any foundational features to Pie, this release marks a significant change in the overall user experience Android. These changes are driven by a slew of thoughtful design and user experience decisions that are united by several core principles such as simplicity and user-centric functionality.

From a conversation with E.K. Chang, Mobile User Experience Manager at Android and Pixel at Google, is gaining insight into the design philosophy and principles behind Android Pie.

Key benefits: simplicity and speed

As the new Android Pie is seen on Google: interviews on design, simplicity and digital wellbeing

Since the announcement of the Android P Beta Program on Google I / O, it was clear that this latest release will be simplified and more concise. According to Chang, the developers focused on 4 main tenets when working on Pie: remove, combine, prioritize and make it clearer.

With the 'withdrawal' everything is clear: if something is redundant or impractical, it should be removed so that there is only one way to perform any action. 'Combining' follows the same logic: if there are many related actions, they must be in the same area. For example, the Home button offers many options for navigating in one place. 'Prioritization' is very important, it has to do with letting the user know what any part of the interface is made for. Look at the switches in the notification shade, and you will see that you can simply tap on them to perform a quick action, or you can call the settings with a long press. And each button works this way, and there are no more different actions depending on where you press it. And finally, the last thing is to make the interface clearer. How? If something is confusing for a beginner, it should be changed towards more clarity. For example, the way the volume switch in Pie just changes the volume in the media. And the volume in all other places can only change in the sound settings – here we again return to 'withdrawal'.

As the new Android Pie is seen on Google: interviews on design, simplicity and digital wellbeing

The idea behind the overall simplification of the operating system in Pie is that not every person is Android – geek – in reality, most are not. In Pie, the Google developers wanted to make the system more accessible and attractive to everyone – and not only in appearance, but also in how it works. Since the latter is not intuitive, everyone benefits from simplicity, even advanced users.

Chang says that particular attention has been paid to those subtle points in the interface that you do not notice, such as animations and transitions. 'Significant improvements have been made to our framework-side window manager.' In Pie, animations are 'short and cute', which reduces unnecessary waiting times between actions. 'The smoothness of the transitions in Pie is MUCH higher … I use the developer's settings to slow down the animation, just to show it to people and show a direct comparison [to Oreo].'

The purpose of the transitions that were applied in Pie was to give the user the ability to logically track the actions and not get confused – you see that the animation starts where you tap, and shows new windows that appear and disappear in a specific place so that your eye can track process. It's a very subtle thing, but it really allows the user to navigate: “Okay, I'll tap this, this thing will grow and turn into a full screen application.” This gives users an understanding of what they are doing and where the operating system is directing them. ' We've seen this in Oreo to a certain extent, but in Pie the emphasis has been on extending this requirement across the OS.

About gestures

As the new Android Pie is seen on Google: interviews on design, simplicity and digital wellbeing

One of the most important topics of discussion for Android Pie is its gesture navigation system. This is the first functional change to Google navigation since Ice Cream Sandwich first appeared on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in 2011. Perhaps for those who have tried everything in the world Android – devices, this looks strange, but Chang points out a curious thing: '[Users Android] are familiar with these buttons and that they do, but those on Android recently are confused. '

As the new Android Pie is seen on Google: interviews on design, simplicity and digital wellbeing

Indeed, for those who have used iPhone for years, it is not at all obvious what these buttons are supposed to do or why they are constantly there. For example, the Back button is still a necessary part of the interface, but it is tucked away where there is no Go Back feature in the application. And the multitasking button was prepared to be replaced, because user behavior studies showed that very few people regularly use it. So Chang's team had a wide range of activities to implement improvements.

Interestingly, early in the development process at Google found out that people get used to gesture control quite easily. The company conducted extensive research into various groups of 'normal' shoppers, giving them Pixel smartphones at Android 9 to try out the gesture system. After a quick training, they were left with the apparatus, and then they collected feedback. According to Ms. Chang, to her surprise, her favorite feature was the ability to navigate between apps using the Gesture Home button. 'They decided it was incredibly useful, fast, easy and convenient – everything we wanted to achieve. We were pleasantly surprised. '

And rest assured, this is not a quirk or a test, in the future Google will make gestures the main system for navigation. Pixel devices updated with Oreo will still have three-button navigation by default with the ability to switch to gestures. But future phones from Google (and any manufacturer that wants it) will get gesture navigation by default out of the box. And given the way Google has promoted the gestures and shown them to work well, you can expect them to be the only navigation option in future 'pixels'. There is only one drawback with the new gesture system – it will not become universal. Companies will still be able to choose the old three-button navigation system at will, or use their own gesture system like OnePlus and Motorola do.

It's worth noting that Google representatives confirm that in the future, Pixel smartphones will have gesture control only, but simply indicate that by default Android Pie uses gesture control.

Versus the traditional home screen

As the new Android Pie is seen on Google: interviews on design, simplicity and digital wellbeing

The new gesture navigation is a very appealing part of the Pie release, but it is about more than going from three buttons to one or two. In fact, it reflects the diminishing role of the traditional home screen and the transition to an interface in which you continually switch between applications and tasks.

As the new Android Pie is seen on Google: interviews on design, simplicity and digital wellbeing

Chang's design goal is clear: “When it comes to the operating system as a whole, the ability to switch between multiple applications and tasks is fundamentally important.” As part of the mission to 'simplify', it was important to change the home screen experience to focus on switching the user between apps and tasks, rather than bringing them back to the home screen over and over again.

“This new design essentially combines launcher functionality and toggle functionality in a single swipe up … we deliberately split the bottom of the launcher so that it can be accessed from anywhere, even within apps.” And it works! When gesture navigation is enabled, you can swipe up and access the app list and Google search bar anytime, even while in the app. And this is a major shift in the app-home-app-home-screen paradigm, a highly intuitive approach.

As for the list of applications, the delivery of applications actually occurs in two stages: the first one showed a number of recommended applications, and then the rest of the applications. Chang says it was a very deliberate choice based on user feedback. The results showed that 60% of the time people swiped up from the bottom of the display to the list of apps, they needed one of the recommended apps at the top. One can applaud Google's algorithms for determining when to put apps there, but this is an indicator of how few apps we actually use on a regular basis. And by making it faster and easier, you can speed up access to the application you want most of the time.

Digital well-being is more than a set of limitations

As the new Android Pie is seen on Google: interviews on design, simplicity and digital wellbeing

Regarding the initiative, which Google itself has described as 'digital wellbeing', it may cause some skepticism, as the postulate that they want to help you use your phone less is at odds with the fact that Google's true goal is, on the contrary, to get you to use your phone more. (and hence her services) to bring her income.

It's easy to focus on new features that allow you to track and restrict specific apps, or gray out the entire screen to make it less attractive, but digital wellness is more than a couple of tweaks. According to Chang, this is an idea that has been applied to the OS as a whole: '[The Pie interface] is about being more efficient and interacting more meaningfully with your device so you can sort things out and get back to the really important things in your life.' .

This is more than forcing yourself to use less Instagram or Twitter – Pie is full of small interface changes aimed at making the interaction with the phone faster and more efficient so that you can do the same, but less time staring at the screen. Features like action prediction, recommended apps in the multitasking window, and app slices help you complete tasks and get back to the real world. “Everything is connected,” says Chang. “Making the OS efficient, powerful and highly productive can buy you time to think about how you use your device, and then take advantage of digital wellbeing features and limit the time [spent with the device].”

In other words, this is how she sees it: not everyone will need to use features that really limit their stay in specific applications. The developers hope that the simplicity and smoothness of the system will help you take action so quickly that you don't need it. It is unclear how this will work in practice, but it makes more sense to explain it than to add a 'wellness' feature to any other OS. The changes Chang talks about will make the phone experience a better experience for everyone, not just those unable to put the phone down.

Android 9 Pie may not be the most ambitious OS version Google has ever released, but it has applied so many interface and device enhancements that it deserves praise as a whole with its software features. not just an Oreo update.

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