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User interface is critical on mobile

Are Android / iPhone / Windows phone designs really that different? Can we create just one design / experience for all of them? At a talk I attended recently, Geoff Bowers of Daemon illustrated their challenges in delivering the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) suite of web information systems, web sites, data processing and mobile accessible […]
May 6, 2013 7:32 am

User interface is critical on mobile

  • Are Android / iPhone / Windows phone designs really that different?
  • Can we create just one design / experience for all of them?

At a talk I attended recently, Geoff Bowers of Daemon illustrated their challenges in delivering the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) suite of web information systems, web sites, data processing and mobile accessible platforms. The area that struck home surrounded the mobile site, and mobile applications. One piece of background information about this before we crack in. The AOC  set their budgets two years prior to an event, and mobile was not considered a priority in 2011 when this was set out. Late funding was brought in via sponsorship from the Commonwealth Bank.

The project was to create an information portal of data from the Olympics that is uniquely Australian. This is a somewhat different approach to other countries around the world who have an all consuming view of every athlete and sport. Daemon worked with the Australian Olympic Committee to build this vision and provide a portal focused to Australian’s wanting to know about their athletes, medals results and schedules.

Because a mobile app was not part of the project, it was left until the last minute. The developers looked at HTML5 as the way to do it. They could use PhoneGap and  technology they already knew. Initially due to the short time frame for the build and budget the application was designed and built to work on iPhone. There were issues and challenges, but they were overcome to complete a great iPhone app.

Using Sencha Touch and PhoneGap this would enable developers supported directly to Android with minimal effort, if there was time.

With two weeks before the opening ceremony the application went into the Apple Store authorisation black hole, and while they were waiting decided that there was time to port it to Android.  Releasing it into Google Play usually only takes a couple of days, but the application was denied and removed.

With only days to go prior to the games, calls were made to people within the International Olympic Committee, Google and Apple to find out what was going on. Both app stores had denied the apps for international trademark reasons, and with pressure from Switzerland on the AOC’s behalf the apps were made available.

The application was released on iOS and was a great success. Feedback was excellent, and uptake was far in excess of what was expected which led to some issues with performance due to the amount of data, caching and sheer volume of users.

Android on the other hand was not so great. No design changes were made in the port from iOS and testing was limited to a few devices. Feedback on the app in the Android store was undeniably vitriolic and vocal. It was noticed that the port had no effort put into it, and that the interface did not suit the android user experience.

Here is the intial review from user DanielFranklin:

[box style=”alert”]Has some good info, but for some reason scrolling data that is already loaded maxes out a full Cortex-A9 core @1.5ghz, that’s with full hardware rendering on Android 4.0.4(SGS2) Amazingly inefficient![/box]

With only hours left to the start of the games the Daemon developers pulled a hero development 24 hours and redesigned the architecture and experience to take into account some of the feedback. This meant that the app worked as an Android user expected, and the interface was slick to their expectations.

Remarkably the users came back to comment again and express their gratitude. The feedback was remarkable and the user base grew fast on Android with these changes. No longer were the users hitting the home button on the device and the app closed (or crashed to the users mind). This button now took them back a page per the usual experience.

Here’s the new review from DanielFranklin:

[box style=”approved”]It has been fixed, performs as it should. Thanks so much guys for fixing it.[/box]

And a second review, from Jason:

[box style=”approved”]We cried and you listened. Totally opening a Commonwealth bank account tomorrow.[/box]

Images from the apps in question, and for those of you quick enough to see it, the CBA ads contained an Android with the iOS design inside. When these were running on national TV the app was not at its best! Well done Daemon, great result!

In short? If you are going to build for Android, Windows and iPhone you really do need to have two different designs depending on your interface.

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SixFive is a mobile app developer – If you’d like some assistance in making your website work well on mobile, or creating and launching a mobile app for your business, drop us a line, we’d be only too happy to assist you.

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