March 4, 2013
One or two key functions. Well designed apps master their core interactions. The best are unique and become associated with the brand itself. You could even call them branded interactions.
Clear‘s primary interactions are adding and clearing to-do items. Swipes are the main gesture in Clear and none is more fulfilling than crossing off an item as complete. Animation and sound are used to make it fun, fulfilling and even at a small psychological level, it encourages users to cross off items again and again. It’s either coincidence or genius their app is named after this core interaction. I’d go with the latter.
Mailbox is the newest hyped mail client for iOS. Once you get past their waiting list and start using it to manage your messages, the main interaction is moving mail out of your inbox. It’s similar to Clear with horizontal swipes controlling the state of items, but it’s obvious this interaction had a ton of thought put behind it. It is literally what differentiates Mailbox from other mail clients.
Swiping right shows a green color with a check mark, which lets you archive the message. Swiping further right gives a red background and an X, letting you delete. To the left, you get a yellow color with a clock icon, letting you to send the email back to yourself in the future. Go further left and you get a green background and can add the email to a list.
This is the big innovation of Mailbox: they’ve made it fun to sort your messages in four ways with a swipe and get down to inbox zero.
Sunrise is a calendar app combining your Google Calendar and Facebook events with daily info like birthdays and weather. Instead of different views for daily, weekly, monthly, etc., Sunrise has a single screen combining a two week view and daily agenda.
Scrolling into the future through the agenda, you run into the problem of how you get back to ‘today’. The creators solved this by making a button fade in on the lower left. The arrow points back to ‘now’ by angling up or down, relative to where you are in. Press the button and you move back to your real-time view.
Video has always been a pain to create on smartphones. Figuring out how to make it fun was critical for Vine.
Based on the number of Vine videos showing up on Twitter, it seems they’ve solved this challenge. Use Vine and it’s easy to see how. To record, you press and hold on your screen. As you hold, the progress bar fills. Release and your recording pauses, allowing you to go find your next shot. They chose wisely to force users to ‘edit in camera’ instead of giving them a suite of video editing tools as other apps have.
They’ve made creating and sharing video a fun experience that lets you express yourself in a new and creative way.
Path is for sharing your life with the people closest to you. The most important interaction in Path is adding content. They focused on that activity and made the process playful. Just press the red plus icon and your different sharing options fly out. Tap it again and they hide.
The attention to detail on the animation makes it engaging. Imagine if they just had the different buttons spread out on the bottom of the screen like other apps. It wouldn’t be as memorable and they would have lost out on a good opportunity to tug on the user’s desire for play.
While Google+ took a pretty standard approach to sharing content, they excel in what’s turned into a bit of a ‘peacocking’ area of app design: the loading indicator. They use the ‘pull down’ interaction to load new content, but their animation is very memorable. As you pull down, four bands appear and stretch out the more you pull. It seems if you pulled too far, the bands would actually snap. I find myself trying to do that whenever I use Google+ and imagine what sort of Google Vortex would open if I were successful.
How to bring branded interactions to your app
Think about the core function of your app very early on. What do you want people to do over and over again? If you’re lucky, like with Clear, and you might be able to get your app name from the interaction. By focusing on that core activity you want your users to be doing, main other things can fall into place to support that action happening more often.
All of the examples above use elements of play. While not everyone is a gamer, we all can appreciate when our tools are fun to use. By taking the extra effort to play on the emotional needs of users, we open our apps and products up to a new level of user appreciation.
“By employing emotional design in our app, we’re consciously shaping positive memories of our brand that not only encourage users to stick around, but also turn them into evangelists for a product they love.”
– Stephen P. Anderson, Seductive Interaction Design
When the interaction is unique, your users can begin to associate that interaction with your product. If you can own an interaction, that’s a very strong level of branding in today’s interface-filled world.