The importance of instant feedback in UI design: the Android case

2 minute read

“The inconsistencies in the interface between apps and the occasional lag doing simple things like scrolling in windows just screamed at me.”
— James Kendrick (2011) After the iPhone 4S, Android just feels wrong

“That having been said, it unfortunately remains the case that Android [Ice Cream Sandwich] isn’t as swift and responsive as iOS or Windows Phone (or even MeeGo Harmattan on the N9).”
“The subtle, pervasive lag that has characterized the Android UI since its inception is still there, which is not a heartening thing to hear when you’re talking about a super-powered dual-core device like the Galaxy Nexus.”
— Vlad Savov (2011) Galaxy Nexus with Ice Cream Sandwich hands-on

“Android, on the other hand, has always felt laggy to me.”
— Mike Rundle (2011) Android’s Touch Responsiveness Is Terrible

From an interaction design standpoint, this is a quite huge flaw in Android as is today and it’s one of the things that can be easily dismissed but in the end is that one able to create the magic of a perfect user experience.

I found a discussion on Reddit about this, here are some quotes:

I find very interesting that the author of the question needs to add “not trolling, honest question” to avoid flames (failing, of course) . It’s an hard topic, because instead of discussing the problem this topic usually derails in fanboism. What’s interesting is that’s an Android forum and still most users agree on the problem.

“I’m not saying android’s touch responsiveness is bad, it’s just not as good and it’s very noticeable when playing games on it.”
“Scrolling a list of apps in the market, or doing absolutely anything in Reddit is Fun–are jerky nightmares.”
“However even compared to those parts that are not jerky, iOS still seems to be smoother. I cannot put my finger on what is actually different, but I’m not sure it is actually smoother/faster/better.”

Reddit: Why is the touch sensitivity/responsiveness on android phones not even half as good as apple products? [Not trolling, honest question]

From the discussion and some good analysis there, it seems that the problem isn’t in the detection of the touch even, but in the response of the UI. Most of the responses seems to point out to the lack of hardware acceleration as the culprit.

I like this discussion because it’s very hard to show people this very problem: while its consequences are very relevant in the overall user experience, it’s often very difficult to make someone understand that “it should be 0.1 seconds faster” is actually a very important thing to do.