17
Apr
2014

business: designing for android

Endless Mile, Android app

Time for a change.

Despite owning several Apple products, last September I decided to experiment & bought a second-generation Nexus 7 tablet. In about two months I became a fan… much more so than with any Apple product. Phenomenal screen resolution, truly light weight, crisp & clean design plus amazing adaptability won me over. The more I used the tablet, the more I realized how fantastic Endless Mile guides would look on Android.

The decision to learn to program & to invest that much time seemed overwhelming at first. After all, I’d just planned to write a bunch of new content! But the more I read, the more I knew I’d made the right choice. Soon I did nothing but study Java & XML.

One month passed; time to take theory into practice. I decided to tackle Lisbon’s Mosteiro dos Jerónimos first since the general structure would be less complex than other guides I’ve already written. Taking Google’s design guidelines to heart, I sat down with a pencil & paper to make those first sketches. How should I take all the info from the PDF & reorganize it? Did I need a navigation drawer? How would a user navigate through the app? The best way for me to visualize everything was to cut out squares for each section & try different scenarios. It was like being in grade school again!

Endless Mile, sketching out Android app design

Endless Mile, sketching out Android app design

Since I still had some doubts about home screen design, I decided to jump into how the text screens would look. As with learning anything new, each day was full of joyful “Wow! It worked!” celebrations accompanied by just as many disappointing “Dang! What did I do wrong?” moments. The design slowly began to come together, & I whipped up a quick home screen (with buttons that didn’t work) so I could show my friends what I was working on during a work trip to Seattle. Pictured below is some of that December progress:

Endless Mile, initial Android app design

Endless Mile, initial Android app design

Endless Mile, initial Android app design

Endless Mile, initial Android app design

The next month, the app sat dormant. I certainly didn’t. Things were crazy in Seattle, & I had a fantastic trip to Jordan & Israel. Back home in Patagonia in February, I timidly revisited what I’d already done. Would I remember what I’d learned? Would I be able to finish by April? Turns out the break did me good. A complete redesign of the home screen gave me the confidence to continue… after several experimental background images, the last photo below is the final version.

Endless Mile, Android app design progress

Endless Mile, Android app design progress

Endless Mile, Android app design progress

Endless Mile, Android app design progress

I also began tinkering with the way text is presented. Now it’s more like what I’d envisioned months ago (before & after below):

Endless Mile, Android app design progress

Endless Mile, Android app design progress

Perhaps not the best idea, but icon design came last. I’d originally thought of a modified luggage tag (visible in some of the screen captures above), but any way I drew it, the concept seemed too cliché. What could be a symbol for Lisbon to use in all future apps? Of course, o corvo… the raven. Not to compete with Twitter or Angry Birds, but images of the raven are all over Lisbon because they guarded St. Vincent. I love Google’s encouragement to use icons that are NOT in square boxes. For example, on my tablet the two logos that attract my eye most are VLC & the raven:

Endless Mile, Android app design progress

Endless Mile, Lisbon icon

At long last the beta version is now complete!! No crashes, but more testing needs to be done. There are a few more tweaks I’d like to incorporate, but my priority is getting the app on the market soon… probably sometime in late May. I’ll be offering lots of free copies too, so that will help spread the word. Below are a few screen captures plus a 5-minute walkthrough video:

Endless Mile, Android app beta version

Endless Mile, Android app beta version

Endless Mile, Android app beta version

Endless Mile, Android app beta version

Update (Aug 2017): Great news! After a bumpy couple of years, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos app is live in the Google Play Store. Get your copy & explore the most important monastery in Portugal with me. Also, if you’re curious about how Endless Mile guides are written, this blog post discusses the step-by-step process, from research to route development, map making & design… using the guide for the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos as an example.

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