Late last year, Google announced the design guidelines for Lollipop, its newest version of Android. Ever since, the Evernote Android team of designers and developers have been hard at work evolvinglast year’s Evernote 6 for Android update.
We sat down with Android product manager Theresa Pittappilly and designer Adam Glynn-Finnegan to examine the thought behind what’s changed.
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What did you optimize for in the update?
TP: We had two primary goals with this refresh. The first was to incorporate user feedback to polish certain areas of the app. The second was to align ourselves with Material Design, Android’s new design guidelines for Android Lollipop. This meant incorporating Google’s newest concepts, aesthetic guidelines, and cross-device unification to produce an app at the forefront of Android development.
AGF: Our Evernote 6 for Android update last year was pretty close to Material Design from a visual perspective. The changes may seem subtle, but the thoughtful touches to these features make for a better Android experience overall.
What is Material Design, and how did that motivate some of the changes in this redesign?
AGF: Material Design represents Google’s most recent thinking behind what an Android app should look and feel like. It provides guidance on how good visual design merges with the possibilities afforded by modern Android devices. It’s a look that makes for very clean and intuitive user interfaces.
The guidelines are detailed in places, and open for interpretation in other areas. In general, we had room to play and were able to be creative within the boundaries. We wanted the app to feel very much inspired by the Material styling while still feeling Evernote-y.
Can you describe the visual language of the new Evernote for Android?
AGF: It takes the best visual practices from flat design and adds tactile elements like shadows and depth to act as cues for usability. Because each UI element exists on a separate layer, we think of the app not as one screen, but an interaction of many independent levels.
Beyond that, there are subtle animations that we used to guide the user’s eye and smoothen screen transitions. The combination of depth, layers, and motion allow help establish a sense of hierarchy and intent.
The end result of this process is visually pared down. For example, we made the note editor as sparse as it’s ever been on Android. Evernote is your workspace, so we wanted to make it as clean and uncluttered as possible to minimize distractions to your writing.
TP: It also incorporates Evernote’s newer collaborative features in a really natural and learnable way. The note view now shows a picture of a colleague to communicate their presence in shared notes. This pairs with easy entry points into Work Chat to make the collaborative Evernote experience feel alive and dynamic.
How did user feedback influence the redesign?
AGF: We have a robust beta community that provided a lot of helpful feedback. In many cases, their voice informed when to depart from the Material Design guidelines. Some aspects of Google’s suggestions weren’t appropriate for Evernote, and our users let us know that. The end result feels like an app experience unique to Evernote.
TP: User feedback also provided a basis for the design of certain buttons. For example, the new note button that is a central point of action within the app can now be customized and reordered. We wanted to provide our users with the flexibility to create their own system. We feel that the best digital workspace is one that is respectful of a wide variety of workflows.
Some users are surprised at how differently designed Evernote for Android is from Evernote for iOS. Why are they so different?
TP: If we were steadfast about making them consistent, the only way we’d be able to achieve that consistency is through mediocrity. To make the experience identical is to forego the unique qualities of each platform.
AGF: The fact that Evernote embraces this philosophy is what allows our apps to feel like they were purpose built for the platform, on every platform, which we think improves usability. This is part of what makes being a designer at Evernote feel like we are constantly innovating platform-specific design. This update was no different, resulting in what we feel is a very modern Android app.
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