My wife and I each have our own Droid X smartphones and Galaxy Tab tablets, plus a laptop that we share. I’m fairly computer literate, but not more than that—ignorance reigns supreme with so many devices and apps to deal with, each having it’s own learning curve to be shinnied up. My wife’s position on all these learning curves has gone from zero to 30 in a very short period of time, which is not bad for one who freely admits her hatred of things that blink and chime, and talk back. We both get really angry at our devices, but my wife, even when she knows what to do, will often play ombudsman for the severely device-challenged, pleading the logic of their case eloquently and passionately as she did to me this morning:
“All these apps work differently, with things disguised as buttons and buttons disguised as things—different apps with different ways of doing the same things in different places. Why can’t they all do the same things in the same ways in the same places?”
My wife was having a Steve Jobs moment. In an Android world, that can be a little awkward. It didn’t take me long to come up with examples of her complaint within Google’s own applications:
- The display of pictures and albums is handled differently, and lousily, in PC Picasa, Picasa Web Albums and Google+, with the same set of controls arrayed in wildly different ways.
- A single application, like Gmail, has a very different UI on mobile than on the PC and they’re both different from the tablet (where the interface is actually pretty neat).
- In independent apps, browser-based or Android based, developers are still living in the Wild West where anything goes.
- Keyboards are all different.
The cure for this is UI standardization, which equates to a presumption of non-competitiveness, not to mention sameness and boredom. Developers and their masters don’t want this—they want to be crazy different in order to get your attention. They have data showing that crazy different works.
They’re not going to change their minds. But maybe they don’t have to. It would be enough if the gods of Android just enforcedly configured the Menu dropdown to include all the relevant functions of application and operating system. Each application would register links to all its main functions with Android’s App Manager, and then select relevant links to operating system functions. Conceptually then, clicking on “Menu” would, always and forever, display this:
- All App Settings
- All relevant Operating System Settings
Thereby, a covenant would be established between app and user wherein all functions of the app could be found in the same place all the time. This would become an adjunct to the “Any device, anywhere” mantra—it would become “Any device, anywhere, in the same way and the same place on the screen.”
With that understanding, each app could go its own merry way to tinseltown without leaving users dazed and confused in its wake.
Some will say that Chrome and Google+ are already moving in this direction. True, but progress is too slow. Google could do better.
Larry Blumen is an innovative author with a dryer-than-dry sense of humor. His debut book VD Man takes place in 1965, Miami, Florida, a city that has more cases of infectious syphilis than any city in America—a fact the Chamber of Commerce and the Miami Health Department conspire to cover up. Into this sticky wicket stumbles Allen Kravass, who gives up a cushy job in his father’s bank to pursue a career in syphilis eradication with the federal government. Kravass aspires to be a VD man—a sleuth for syphilis.
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