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Juhani Lehtimäki
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Juhani Lehtimäki

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Android App Polishing: Preserving Context to Help Users

With the release of Capitaine Train for Android[0], several people recently asked me how we implemented some of the tips & tricks available in the application (some of these tricks are barely visible but remember, I love details :p). In order to showcase some of the most interesting application bits of code, I thought it could be helpful to Android developers to start a small series of posts. Feel free to comment this article if you want me to describe something you found nice in the Capitaine Train application.

Just like every other applications, The Capitaine Train app contains several forms: sign in/up form, user info forms, etc. Forms are usually a pain in the ass to develop because you need to make sure they are clean enough not to annoy the user but verbose enough to let her/him understand what kind of information she/he is currently filling in.

When implementing the first internal versions of the application we obviously used EditText as our favorite class. Unfortunately, we rapidly faced an issue with the default design of EditText: the user loses context once at least one character is typed into a field. Because EditText uses the "hint" string as the field's description, we had some pre-filled fields that were almost impossible to understand.

In order to overcome this issue, we decided to implement an emerging pattern introduced by Matt D. Smith on Dribble[1] and described by Brad Frost on his blog[2]: the float label pattern. We actually called it internally (i.e the classes are named after): the floating hint pattern.

The implementation is rather simple and consists on a base class we called FloatingHintControl. FloatingHintControl is an abstract container that is made of a TextView and requires an additional 'interactable' View (i.e. the control). The floating hint is displayed/animated depending on the control state as reported by subclasses. In the current public build of Capitaine Train, we have several FloatingHintControl subclasses:

  • FloatingHintAutoCompleteTextView: an AutoCompleteTextView with a floating hint
  • FloatingHintButton: this UI widget is actually a button that displays a date picker dialog when tapped
  • FloatingHintEditText: the floating hint equivalent of an EditText
  • FloatingHintSpinner: A Spinner that always displays a floating hint description

Preserving user's context is both essential and difficult to do on mobile applications. Because screens sizes are generally small you always have to weight the pros and cons of adding information on screen. If you are not really satisfied about the built-in EditText, the floating hint may be a great compromise when designing forms in your Android applications.

[O]: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.capitainetrain.android
[1]: https://dribbble.com/shots/1254439--GIF-Float-Label-Form-Interaction?list=users&offset=28
[2]: http://bradfrostweb.com/blog/post/float-label-pattern/
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Old stuff. *cough*
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Juhani Lehtimäki

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Really liking the new panorama mode ui in the new Android camera app. Makes much better pictures.
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Tabletop is probably one of the highest quality shows on YouTube. Now, +Wil Wheaton and +Felicia Day are looking into crowd sourcing to get the next season done with the same quality. This is absolutely worth backing!
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[EDIT] The developer has chosen to put in cash cheats into this game. I wish I could still get a refund. I advise everyone to avoid purchasing this title. 

I think this is the most I've paid for any app for Android. I'm not sure if this price is justified especially as the expansions are extra. This is a 15 years old game. Still... couldn't resist buying it.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.beamdog.baldursgateenhancededition
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Exactly. Not $60. Ergo, in app extras aren't justified.
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Juhani Lehtimäki

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I find these new G+ notifications very difficult to parse at glance. I just see a lot of text and need to stop to read to figure out if I need to react to this notification.
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Patrick Saimesier's profile photoArvid Gerstmann's profile photoSahil Chaturvedi's profile photoNisah Cheatham's profile photo
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Once I realized that only the action was specified and it wasn't a snippet of any actual reply, I am not as annoyed.
I just don't think of my posts by the first line that was written.  Maybe I should be thinking of that when I write a post.  hmmmm
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Have him in circles
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Juhani Lehtimäki

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I'll never trust any mobile pic anymore. These editing tools allow you change everything in the picture with no effort.
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Don't take this the wrong way but, I'm surprised you trusted in any picture before ;) And nice work on the editing, btw. 
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Dear G+ crowd, I want to utilise your wisdom again. I'm looking to buy a new AV-receiver as my old one is starting to break down.

I'm hoping to hear from people who have an AV-Receiver they're happy with and matches following requirements:

1) Simple to use. I'm not looking for a professional sound system with million buttons and playback modes blah blah.
2) Need to support 5.1 output (ie. I want to connect my old speakers(5) and subwoofer to it).
3) Need to have reliable HDMI input including CEC. I must be able to plug in a Chromecast to it and keep it turned off and get it to turn on automatically when I turn on my Google Music via Chromecast and jump to the correct HDMI input.
4) Nice to have: an Android app for controlling the device over wifi. I'd love to see a manufacturer that has created an app for Android that followed the design guidelines and doesn't look like a quick iOS port from 2008.

Any idea if a AV-Receiver like that exists? Any recommendations? 

 
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+Marius Reichardt Before the A3030 I used a Marantz SR5007. It gave me issues with flaky HDCP handshakes with a number of devices and led to the upgrade purchase. Others here and there seem to have similar issues with Marantz units; apparently they just don't like some TVs and projectors.
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You serious??! They offer cash cheats in the Baldur's Gate game. This is just stupid. Why do devs have to ruin this. Too bad my refund period is over...
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+Mark Allison If you think $10 is "a premium" for a 30-50 hour content-driven game I don't know what to tell you.

+Juhani Lehtimäki You're assuming that this character or other add-ons in this game give you an inherent, objective edge in gameplay rather than just more playable content or different approaches to the story scenarios. Without showing this both of your numbered assertions and your conclusion are arguing against a straw man. By that argument Starcraft: Brood War was "pay to win" because it meant you could use medics in custom games against the AI.
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Yep:
"If the Galaxy S5 existed in a world of its own, it'd look pretty darn impressive. The problem is that the real world isn't so one-dimensional -- and when you start making comparisons, Samsung's "next big thing" looks a lot less grand."

Samsung needs to do something about their strategy.. Then again, I bet this thing will sell like crazy.. sigh
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+Waza_Be of course as testing device only. Picked it up from my provider for 49€ and I think that's exactly what the device is worth ;)
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Loving some of the animations in the new Google Camera. It feels pretty nicely polished even when the UI is very bare.
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Andrea Fontana's profile photoSahil Chaturvedi's profile photoAbhilash Kuduvalli's profile photoVilmar Simson's profile photo
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No more timer for delayed photo. Sometimes focus indicator disappears...
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Have him in circles
18,371 people
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Head of Android development at Snapp
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Android developer, design fan and author of Smashing Android UI book, co-creator of Lands of Ruin.
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