Twitter is one of the most popular social networks in the world. Users from across the globe use the service to broadcast brief messages to their followers, whether they sit in the same room next to them or in a room on the other side of the planet. Because of the speed and ubiquity of the service, Twitter, in comparison to other social networks like Facebook and Google+, benefits particularly well from a mobile version of its website as well as native applications for the most popular mobile operating systems, including Android. The widespread availability of a service like Twitter, to which users have constant access at the tips of their fingers, speaks to the importance of social networking and the impact it has had on human beings over the last decade.
Unfortunately the official Twitter experience on Android leaves something, many things really, to be desired. The native Twitter application appears as though it was ported straight from iOS, the mobile operating system from Apple, without a thought about integrating it into Android. The look and feel of the app as well as its user interface deliver a foreign user experience when compared with other apps that align more closely with the Android design philosophy. On the bright side, the Play Store offers a bevy of third-party Twitter clients from which users may choose; but doing so proves difficult given the number of apps available. How can one discern between them and select the best one?
After searching for one myself, I ultimately settled on Tweedle. Tweedle, a free app, is still a bit under the radar in the grand scheme of Twitter clients. The reason I chose Tweedle for my personal Twitter use, however, and the very reason I chose to cover it in my post today, is its Holo-theme-influenced design. With a look and feel that fits squarely into the Android user experience and a refreshingly simplistic appearance, Tweedle continues to gain notoriety among those who wish to enjoy Twitter using a natural user interface that refuses to compromise functionality for style. And in reviewing Tweedle today, I will explain its elements of style as they relate to Android app design, including some aspects of the Holo theme which I chose to exclude from the introductory post about Android design I wrote last week.
Twitter as a service is very straightforward: users submit “tweets”, messages of 140 characters or less, and those who follow them can view the tweet as part of a larger list. Options to reply to or “retweet” those messages or view the profiles of users who submitted them exist as well. Other than that, a Twitter client requires little in the way of features; and that stems from the simplicity of the social network itself. Relative to other services which tend to offer a robust, if overwhelming, experience replete with numerous interactive elements, Twitter offers a type of social interaction that is more consolidated, yet still rich.
And that translates to the very manner in which HandlerExploit, the developer of Tweedle, designed the client. Of course, building upon the Holo theme provides a strong foundation for developers, but doing so in a way that promotes ease of use without sacrificing quality design is quite a feat.
Comparing the home screen view of Tweedle with the official Twitter application (henceforth referred to simply as “Twitter”) demonstrates a stark contrast in design philosophies, and one emerges as a clear winner (hint: it’s Tweedle). One of the major differences that jumps at you immediately is the wasted space among the two would-be action bars at the top of Twitter; the top bar contains the company logo on the left side and two icons, one for searching and one for submitting a new tweet, on the right side. Meanwhile, the second bar contains four different buttons to view different sections of the app. The space consumed by the dual bars leaves less room to display the list of tweets.
In Tweedle, two bars still adorn the top portion of the window, the first of which is the Main Action Bar, which we discussed last week. The app’s MAB features just a few buttons, one for submitting a new tweet, one for searching, and one for revealing a menu with Profile and Settings options. The second bar, which serves as a status bar displaying the different section names, like Timeline, Mentions, or Messages, is only wide enough to contain a little bit more than the height of the section title. And instead of being forced to press one button among a wide row, users can simply swipe between different panels, each of which houses a section. Tweedle utilizes swiping gestures for navigation to eliminate the need for a large row that insinuates itself between what would be the Main Action Bar and the Content Area, like the one in Twitter.
Speaking of which, the Content Area of Twitter seems rather cramped; you may notice that the design houses the list of tweets in a box with rounded corners, leaving a small space between its sides and the sides of the screen and between its top and the bottom of the row of buttons. Tweedle, on the other hand, handles the Content Area in such a manner that wastes no space on any side, providing a larger area in which to display the list of tweets, one of the main purposes of Twitter clients.
Submitting tweets, the other main purpose, is a largely similar experience in both apps; one difference between the two is that Twitter opens a box with spacing around the edges similar to that of the main tweet list, whereas Tweedle allows users to create a new tweet using the entire Content Area. Both submission areas feature a row of icons at the bottom: one for capturing a photograph straight from the camera for attachment to the tweet; one for opening the gallery to select an image for attachment to the tweet; one for a geographical location to associate with the tweet; and one for submitting the tweet. The primary difference is the iconography, one noticeable throughout the entirety of the apps. Before we delve deeper into the nuances of the icons, however, let us examine for a moment the style of iconography recommended for Android app design.
According to the Design section of the Android developers website, icons “are graphic buttons that represent the most important actions people can take within your app” and “each one should employ a simple metaphor representing a single concept that most people can grasp at a glance.” Moreover, “predefined glyphs should be used for certain common actions such as ‘refresh’ and ‘share.’” Buttons shared between various Holo-themed apps often initiate the same sorts of actions when pressed, depending, of course, upon the context of the button.
Specifically in the submission area of the apps, both Tweedle and Twitter utilize the same symbols to represent the available actions, but both use different styles of icons. Notice how the icons in Twitter tend to appear more like actual buttons with defined shapes separating themselves from one another. Compare the buttons now with those in Tweedle, and you will notice quite a difference: the buttons flow into one another, and the icons have a distinguished look; they exhibit a “pictographic, flat, not too detailed” appearance, “with smooth curves or sharp shapes.” The description, straight from the Android website, matches that of most Holo app icons; the consistency of the icon design across many apps provides users with a consistent experience despite switching from application to application.
Tweedle also promotes consistency in terms of the way it maintains the same panel-style display across the entire app, as evidenced with the profile section of the client.
Beneath your profile, Tweedle displays other relevant information, including the number of users you follow and the number of users following you, and allows you to swipe over to the adjacent panel to view your tweets. Swiping to reveal more information contributes to a fluidity that Twitter lacks. Instead of moving quickly from one piece to another, selecting a section like “Following” in Twitter opens a window containing a list; and to return to the original view and see another section, the user must close the window. Moreover the section of Twitter containing the profile picture is a veritable wasteland. The space surrounding the image is barren, and instead of adjusting the image position and filling the space with the user description, the user must swipe (!) to another portion of the section to view it. Tweedle, on the other hand, handles the display of the profile expertly by condensing the user picture and description in a simplistic manner.
And in addition to all of the other visual enhancements mentioned previously, one more benefit of using Tweedle over Twitter and potentially other Twitter clients is that it offers users the ability to customize the theme of the app. The default Light Holo theme of the app may suffice for some, but for those who prefer to add flair of their own to the apps they use, Tweedle allows users to change the colors of the app, everything from the Action Bar backgrounds to the Scroll Bar. Based on the selection, users can easily maintain the same smooth look with which the app ships while creating a theme built on the colors they love. See the images below (thank goodness I do not design apps).
The word “smooth” describes far more than the theme of Tweedle: it applies to its functionality, gesturing from panel to panel or refreshing for new tweets, its overall appearance, and its transition from being the newcomer in your app drawer to the reigning champion among your Twitter clients. In fact, you should probably just uninstall every other one you have installed currently. And with an active developer who seeks to add even more features over time, including support for viewing a list of trending topics, Tweedle is the only client you will ever need.
Play Store: Tweedle
Next time, I will review another Holo app and continue to delve deeper into the various aspects of the Holo theme and Android app design. If you have any other categories you would like us to tackle, any apps you would like us to review, or any lessons about Android you would like to learn, please let us know in the comments. Thank you for reading!
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