Device-Aware Design

Inspiring delight through hyper-personal interfaces

I’ve spent the last few months working on the Automatic app for Android. It’s been a humbling experience to immerse myself in the world of Android along with their subtle differences in navigation paradigms.

One of the most challenging aspects of my experience with Android has been to design for an ecosystem that lacks a standard in hardware and software. Though the thought of designing an experience that is inconsistent throughout devices makes me anxious as a designer, it presents a few interesting opportunities to delight users through (what I’m calling) device-aware design.

I’m hoping the name is self-explanatory, but the idea is that the design of the app will change slightly depending on the device it’s being used on. We already do this for platforms (Android vs iOS), so why not go a step beyond and create an experience that is most familiar to users where they’ll feel right at home?

For example, at Automatic, we require the pairing of a small hardware device (the Automatic Link) with your smartphone. So, in our setup process we use iconography to depict this process.

This works great for iPhone users since the iPhone form factor has not changed too dramatically since it first came out, making its shape very iconic.

Android, however, comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. This is good for consumers as they become enamored with their choice, but not so great for designers as it muddles the target audience.

We realized early on that simplifying an Android phone to an icon would be harder than expected and likely end up in an unidentifiable shape. So, we decided to change the icon of the phone, depending on which phone they’re using.

Though spending x number of hours developing the code to back this decision might seem superfluous at first, spending the extra time to tailor an experience that feels comfortable for every user makes the end result delightful and magical.

How else can we use the myriad of Android devices to delight users by creating a hyper-personal experience?
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