#PMChallenge Windows and reworked split screen

  1. AlexanderProkhorov
    Cupcake Feb 21, 2019

    AlexanderProkhorov , Feb 21, 2019 :
    What's the problem?

    Have you ever tried to do more than one thing at once on an android phone? If you have, chances are you've regretted it, because any action related to multitasking that is beyond switching to previous app or launching a new app is a whole process that often requires more than half a dozen touches. And in 2019 our needs and our phone’s hardware capabilities are far greater than that. While there are some advances in this area, in most situations they are still either not supported (picture in picture) or so hard to use that it is easier to just not use them (split screen). The feature I'm proposing is aimed to address that.

    A couple of examples to support my point:

    • Let's say you're watching a video on YouTube and want to write down a note without interrupting it. If you are brave enough to attempt that, it will take at the very least 6 touches! (task manager > menu > split screen > home > launch notes app > resume video > adjust split screen size)

    • You will have to go through the same process if you want to bring up a calculator when shopping online, listen to a YouTube exclusive podcast when playing a game, run a speed test when browsing the web, text a friend when watching a video, etc.

    • If you want to do something as simple as swap top and bottom apps in split screen, well, that will be 5 touches (maximize bottom app > task manager > menu > split screen > select previous app > resume game/video)

    What's my solution?

    Short answer:

    • Window mode that allows a user to run multiple apps at once similar to desktop PCs without complicating the UI
    • More fluent, intuitive, fast and convenient split screen and window mode operation based on drag gestures, achieved without significantly changing the existing UI

    *window mode is optional since it is the least important and the most difficult change to implement

    Long answer:

    1. Home button/gesture switches between current activity and home screen instead of just taking a user to home screen


    2. In task manager an app can be dragged by it's icon to the sides of the screen to perform various actions:


      - Top left or bottom left - enter split screen

      - Top right - maximize to full screen

      - Bottom right - minimize to task manager

      - Middle - enter window mode

      - Left or right - minimize to an icon

      *Also applies to windows

    3. Drag bottom right corner of a window to resize it


      *Both the icon on the corner and the menu button are visible only when the window is active. If the user taps outside of the window, they disappear

    4. Going to home screen or task manager minimizes all windows to icons unless they are locked


      *The option to lock an app is the first item in the menu, which allows to quickly trigger it with a double tap

    5. When a locked app is manually minimized to an icon, it will continue running as if it was in foreground


    6. When an app in split screen mode is resized to a very narrow window it fades out and becomes minimized. Tap minimized app and it will switch sizes with the other app


      *Also applies if the other side of the screen is taken up by home screen or task manager

    7. On home screen double tap an app to launch it in window mode


      *If the user went to home screen just now (say within 30 seconds) the window will be opened on top of the previous app

    8. When entering split screen a user is taken to home screen instead of task manager (or to current activity if there is one)

    9. In split screen double tap in the middle of the divider to swap top and bottom apps


      *Also applies if the other side of the screen is taken up by home screen or task manager

    Who are the users?

    Power users who want to do more than one thing at once on their phones and anyone who uses split screen

    What is the user value?

    • Introduced new features that fluently integrate with the existing ones

    • Existing features streamlined and made significantly easier to use

    • On average significantly less touches required to perform various actions related to multitasking

    How is it better than what we already have?

    However clunky and useless, gestures, window mode and split screen have been around since at least the first Galaxy Note and LG G2, unfortunately their implementation still leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of actions that should be done with a single tap or a single gesture take a lot more than that. Apple took gestures, an obscure tiny feature that only a small percentage of tech enthusiast used, and brought it to mainstream by just doing it well, and just a year later it is found in pretty much every new mainstream phone. I believe it is time productivity and multitasking features got the same treatment. The groundwork is already laid down, users are familiar with gestures, it is time to really use them. Currently no phone on the market provides a multitasking experience this fluent.

    Changes #1, #7 and #8 are all done for the same reason. I often see smartphone manufacturers adding menus with apps on lock screen, in notification drawer, in task manager, in various docks on the sides of the screen, even on completely separate physical screens, all in an attempt to increase productivity, but they all seem to forget about the best menu that already exists and provides immediate access to up to 30 apps at once - the home screen. There are several probable reasons both users and manufacturers avoid using it to the extent that they could: on a mobile device going to the home screen is associated with ending all activity, it is somewhat synonymous with closing an app, so users are reluctant to use it. But if the home button switches between current (or last) activity and the home screen, users will quickly learn that it is a separate workspace that exists alongside the one they are used to, similar to desktop devices. And the best part about it is that the interface looks exactly the same as it used to and doesn't take away any functionality, but the benefits are plentiful:

    • From any screen with just two gestures (home and double tap) you can launch any one of 30 apps on your home screen in window mode alongside your current activity, add a third gesture and it is in split screen alongside your current activity. But what if the app you want to launch is not on your home screen? Two of the secondary home screens with up to 25 apps on each one and the app drawer are just one swipe away, it couldn't be easier

    • When entering split screen a user is presented with up to 30 apps to fill the second part of the screen instead of just one. And in case you want that one app that is the most recent in the task manager, it is still just one gesture (home) away

    Still reading?

    It is not that simple with that last point. Not all users organize their home screens, in which case task manager might be the most organized list of apps we as UX designers can provide them with. I propose two solutions to this:

    • Opt in policy for automatically adding new apps to home screen: by default the option to automatically add new apps to home screen is turned off. The logic here is that users that don't care about organizing their home screens are largely the same users that don't care about default settings. This way every icon on the home screen is there only if a user intentionally put it there, and If from the beginning user experience involves going to home screen more often, users might keep that mind when adding new icons. And even if they don't, they at least will be more familiar with where every icon is. But this creates another problem: if the user doesn't arrange new apps on the home screen after installation, that just moves the clutter from home screen to app drawer, thankfully app drawer is significantly more suitable for elegant sorting solutions than home screen. And here is my solution: by default organize apps in the app drawer by date installed instead of alphabetically, with an easy way to switch back and forth with just one gesture. Making filter mode switch the first item in the menu allows to quickly change it with a double tap

    • Do nothing. When needed task manager is still just one gesture away, and thanks to other proposed optimizations total number of touches required to perform a given action will still be lower than it is now. Also app drawer is one gesture harder to reach than home, which will encourage users to bring their apps to home screen
    Some other suggestions I thought of:

    • If bezels in the new OnePlus phone are symmetrical with small corner radius, it might be a good idea to stylize split screen as if it is literally two separate screens:


    • An option to not display app names on home screen

    • Global one handed mode

    • An option to have two rows of apps in task manager

    K1541660134346 and dsmonteiro like this.
  2. AlexanderProkhorov
    Cupcake Feb 21, 2019