CONCEPT: How I would design a “contextual messaging app”, or a “Yo”, for Android

Like a majority of Android users (and I guess iOS as well), I can’t quite understand the hype about Yo. For all the extended capabilities people now mention to justify it’s existence (possible thanks to IFTTT), and the recent usage by Motorola, I can’t help but think that it’s nothing more than a push messaging service, like Google Cloud Messaging, which is capable of sending only one message.

Strangely enough, though, I did get a slight peek into it’s usage potential while talking to a friend, who described how he and his wife use the app. Essentially, they send a “Yo” to the other person to inform when they’ve reached the office, or when their flight has landed, or when they’re done with their work. I immediately understood the explanation Yo’s founder gives, calling the service a “contextual messaging service”. When used right, a “Yo” is enough to let the other person understand what you’re referring to.

I do still have a major gripe with the service, though. I think their app is simply not good enough, and I’m not sure it provides enough value in it’s current form to me as a user, particularly someone who uses an Android device. Thinking about how I would like such a service to work if I were to design it, I created the following mock ups. As is typical of me, I’ve focussed on making the app take advantage of the possibilities offered by the Android platform.

Where does it fit in

One of the biggest challenges that Yo faces is it’s core feature: limited functionality. To make it work best, I need Yo to be able to send my Yo as quickly as possible after unlocking a screen, and that means finding space for it on my homescren. Except, I don’t really have any space for it over there, as you can see from this screenshot.

This is what I meant when I said the limited functionality hurt the app. Considering how rarely I’d use the app, I can’t justify removing any of them. And placing Yo on the side pages would slow down the process (yes, I know, only by a few seconds).

However, there’s one possibility that I, as an Android developer, immediately realized. What if Yo didn’t just Yo? What would be the additional functionality that the app could provide that would justify me replacing one of my current shortcuts?

As I thought of that, I immediately realized that I might actually end up using the service if it was built into the Phone Dialer app. Think about it: we already use it to contact people, so are trained to do so pretty well. I can’t imagine any person who doesn’t have the app pinned to their homescreen. What if there was a way to select a contact within the Dialer, which just sent a Yo instead of calling them?

Yo capability in my regular dialer application

From an interaction perspective, I imagined that the best way to go about it would be to require the user to swipe a contact to the left to send a Yo, as illustrated on the left. One great benefit of this method is that we could add additional messages, besides just a Yo, and text sent depends upon the amount you swipe.

To be very clear, I don’t ever expect Yo to remodel itself into something like this, simply because of “business reasons”. Additionally, as an Android Wear user, I’d typically just lift my wrist and say “OK Google, text Parul I’ve reached” and be done with it.

However, as a user, I would love to see a manner of sending “quick messages” to users in a contacts app, designed in a way that minimizes time spent in the app. Even if it just sends a Yo.


Why CONCEPTs?

I love working on side projects to experiment and learn. However, I’m not a fan of “redesigns”, which a lot of other designers work on. I like to work on something which might be my take on an experience, such as reimagining Yo for Android. Or, as is the case with this Flipkart design, try to add on to the current experience, but constrain myself to their existing design language as much as possible.


About me

I’m a Google Developer Expert for UX/Design, and the Product Manager for Mobile at Haptik. If you’re working on something interesting, I’d love to hear about it!