Mobile platforms have brought in stellar app UI trends over the last few years. Apple brought in a nice flat simple UI with iOS 7 in 2013, pretty straight forward with a minimal learning curve. Then Google with the super fragmented Android user interfaces brought in Material design, finally moving ahead from Holo themes. That I found was pretty cool, though it had a steep learning curve for users.
Apart from cheap hardware, China has been shipping some neat design lately, with Chinese apps & Android OEMs building their own design language. The three popular Android ROMs out there are Xiaomi’s MiUI, Alibaba’s YunOS, and Smartisan.
For example Xiaomi’s MIUI is similar to the elegant iOS UI, but a neater and more feature rich version of the stock Android.
Similarly apps in China are building the UI/UX similar to Chat/IM apps. They have intermediate badges within the apps to notify the user of change. Instead of using the disastrous hamburger menus, Chinese apps rely on a discover tab that has more information within the app.
As discussed earlier, the app stores are really fragmented, with about 14 mainstream ones for Android. So for an app outside China, there is more than a language barrier!
Apart from that, there are widgets built into apps, themes within the app, mascots and digital wallets within the apps.
When we released Instant, it was one of the earliest apps with Material Design on the Play Store. Quite a few users took time to adjust to the UI/UX since it seemed foreign.
Native apps like Gmail, Google Play getting Material Design updates helped. More than that I was really happy to see apps like Facebook and Whatsapp getting Material Design updates, since it got hundreds of millions of users to understand Material Design by building it into their daily routine.
Typefaces got some spotlight in the tech world when Apple moved their fonts for iOS and Mac to Helvetica Neue. Although it looks sharp and neat, it isn’t always very legible on small screens. I preferred Lucida Grande which was earlier optimised by Apple for the Mac.
I also came across the font Neue Haas Unica, which was the redesign of Helvetica. It is crisp and neat like Helvetica but not cold like the Univers typeface. Although the font is over 30 years old, it was remastered by a Japanese Monotype designer. Then there is the playful, fun and crisp Roboto font that is brought in with Android Lollipop. Looks perfect for high pixel density mobile screens.
With watches coming in, Apple just introduced the Sans Serif typeface for legibility- ‘San Francisco’. According to Apple’s Human Interface pages:
At large sizes, the font’s slightly condensed letters are set tight to take up less horizontal space. But at small sizes, they are spaced more loosely and have bigger apertures in glyphs like ‘a’ and ‘e’ to make these easier to read at a glance.
Here is a graph comparing the search trends of Roboto to Helvetica Neue.
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