Image courtesy of The Verge

Following a slew of announcements from Google yesterday culminating with the unveiling of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the accompanying software development kit, Android Beam, the new People app, the panoramic camera feature and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone (among other things), The Verge has published an exclusive, lengthy interview with Android’s head of user experience Matias Duarte. It’s a highly recommended read with revealing details and interesting insider perspective on Google’s arguably the most propulsive property.

Some of the more noteworthy highlights:

Android Honeycomb, which was Duarte’s first big Google project following his departure from Palm after the company was acquired by HP, was a lot like “emergency landing”, he said.  It’s a platform which has “a flexibility designed into it that you don’t have to worry about when you’re doing a completely integrated device”. And why Google refused to open-source Honeycomb? “On Honeycomb we cheated, we cut the corner of all that smaller device support”, adding this:

Honeycomb was like: we need to get tablet support out there. We need to build not just the product, but even more than the product, the building blocks so that people stop doing silly things like taking a phone UI and stretching it out to a 10-inch tablet.

People are fed up with “two decades of windows, and cursors, and little folder icons”, he says. The search company actually visited “shadow” users at their homes and workplaces to figure out how they interacted with mobile devices. What they found out was surprising: Android lacked emotional connection with its users who deemed the operating system overly complex. So they set out to build a wonderland of sorts, improving on Android’s typography by creating in-house a clean typeface for Ice Cream Sandwich dubbed Roboto. He then took a jab at Apple, calling the iOS design “juvenile” and likening it to web pages with “cartoony things hanging off a page”.

More tidbits below the fold.

Right now if you look at all of these applications that are designed in this real-objecty, faux wood paneling, faux brushed metal, faux jelly button kind of thing… if you step back and you really look at them, they look kind of juvenile. They’re not photorealistic, they’re illustrations.

He argues Honeycomb with its smooth design and reduced geekiness offers more diverse ways of rendering content and user interfaces which don’t have to be tied to a particular theme like with Apple and Microsoft products.

His team is also prepping a style guide for developers with building blocks making it easier to create apps which follow Ice Cream Sandwich’s visual language. Wrapping up, he hinted Google’s rivals are in it for the market share and bottom line whereas his team is all for building great, distinguishing user experiences with Ice Cream Sandwich:

I came here because they’re winning, but also because I could not stand the thought of there being another decade of being trapped in one paradigm, of being trapped in the past just because somebody manages to grab maximum marketshare, and then that’s the thing everybody uses with incremental evolution.

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