A Socratic Android
I recently wrote an article on creating a ratings system for something that would make me personally happy as a customer. This will never come to fruition, but as I have spent some time on it I thought that perhaps I could look at what Matias is doing with the design of android and how that is affecting the core experience. Here is what I see Android doing from a design perspective, and I think it is pure genius. Matias Duarte, head of design of Android, has been brilliantly leading Android into the future. He is creating quintessential features, or at least that is his goal. In philosophy Socratic thinkers would believe that everything has a quintessential form, from which all other forms increase in complexity.The Quintessential Chair via www.ecodesignz.com
This chair is close to what I think of whenever someone says chair, which means that this would be my quintessential chair. I would base all ideas of a chair upon this one and as a result would think of this as the simplest way to create a chair. It is this idea that Socrates used in his philosophy and I think that we can find some evidence in it in the design of Android, as well as some areas of Android that are not quintessential. Now that you have a decent understanding of quintessential philosophy we can move on with the meat of the article.Simplicity
In order to accomplish this you can not just make the software more simple, but design Android in a way that won't allow variation of design at a fundamental level because making variation would be degrading the design as a whole. There are a few points at which Matias has done an excellent job. The first of which is the new trio of buttons for android instead of a quartet. He is creating buttons for Android that are so well done that if someone were to variate upon that experience they would be behind the curve or at least creating a negative user experience. Even HTC, a company famous for their skin being vastly different from stock Android, has changed to a trio of buttons on their phones. They realize that this creates a simpler experience for users and is more intuitive. For some reason having four buttons just makes the operating system seem cluttered, but using three buttons feels like a breath of fresh air. I enjoy this because it allows it to still feel like Android, but creates a simple, much more intuitive design. As we see radical change occurring in the Android operating system developer need to be made aware of how they can adjust to those changes.Guidelines
The new Android guidelines are brilliant in that they provide a great way to improve the quality of apps. Matias is providing much more subtle ways to improve the Android experience. He is doing this by making it more convenient to use his guidelines than to use any other method. What Matias is doing is make it a better option for companies and developers to stick to the same basic android experience. Matias is by no means and advocate against Skins, but rather that he is trying to make all the skins able to have a cohesive experience without tons of control from El Google. This is an example of Google doing a great job handling its ecosystem by keeping it both innovative as well as free for exploration. What Matias has done with these is great because of theirWrap Up
Although Android still has a long way to go to be able to catch up to the iPhone, this is the first time that it has been a serious contender from a design perspective. I don't want this to be seen as a piece about whether Android will catch up with iOS because that is not at all what I wrote this about. I wrote this because I wanted to clarify that the article I wrote was not what Android was supposed to be, because I knew that would never happen, but rather what I thought would be an interesting path that Android could have taken. I know that this is where it will be going and I think that Matias is really doing a great job. I thank anyone out there for reading this. Even if I can't prove you exist.
Note: I was unable to load the photos from The Verge of HTC's Sense UI for some reason so I apologize for not being able to provide a better visual.