Design of an Operating Layer over Android for a Smartphone

Company

Our client is a leading mobile handset company in India and has expanded its operations to multiple countries across the world. The company has been building mobile handset design capabilities including industrial design, mechanical design, hardware design & software design. The brand is a leading smartphone brand in India.

Client

Smartphone Brand

Target Markets

India

Services

User Research  |  Brainstorming  |  Design Thinking  |  Information Architecture  |  Taxonomy Interaction  |  Design & Prototyping  |  Interface Design & Design Systems  |  Visual Communication Design  |  Development Support

Background

The client had a vast reseller network in the Tier 2 cities and was rightly positioned to sell a budget smartphone and upgrade existing feature phone users to a smartphone. They just had to ensure that these smartphones could in fact be easily used by a target segment who desired a very simple operating UI or even a first-time smartphone user.

Invendes was invited to help design an operating layer for their smartphones targeting a segment of users who desired a simpler user experience.

The Task

Our job was to validate the findings during The Client’s exhaustive ethnographic studies conducted over 3 months and design an experience layer over Android simplifying it still further for the specified user persona. While this was a delightful project to undertake when we had the luxury of time, we had to crunch the whole project to under 8 months so that the client could catch the next shopping and festive season in India

Primary Persona

The primary persona was a tier 2 city working professional. He had to use the phone extensively to be in touch with his employers and associates.

Persona Profiling

To decide on the persona types, we looked at variables like age, occupation, and tech-savviness to ensure diversity. Emily represents seniors often overwhelmed by modern smartphone complexity. Anita epitomizes busy professionals who desire efficiency. Raj stands for the working professional, and Anjali embodies millennials seeking digital minimalism.

Emily

Anita

Anjali

Raj

Emily

Emily

65, Retired Music Teacher

Bangalore, India

Tech Skill Level: Low

Needs: Large icons, straightforward navigation, and essential apps only (calls, messages, camera).

Goals: To make and receive calls, send messages, and occasionally take photos without the hassle of sifting through complicated menus.

Pain Points: Small text, too many unnecessary features, and can hardly hear anything (Uses headphones)

Anita

Anita

30, Receptionist

Mumbai, India

Tech Skill Level: Moderate

Needs: Quick access to email, calendar, and essential work apps without the distractions of games or social media.

Goals: To streamline daily tasks and enhance productivity.

Pain Points: Notification overload, complicated settings, and time-consuming updates.

Anjali

Anjali

24, Software Developer

Bangalore, India

Tech Skill Level: High

Needs: A clutter-free interface with only essential apps, focusing on functionality over features.

Goals: To reduce screen time and enhance real-world interaction.

Pain Points: Unwanted bloatware, complex menus, and excessive features that lead to procrastination.

Raj

Raj

28, Small Business Owner

Varanasi, India

Tech Skill Level: Low to Moderate.

Needs: Simplified UI for basic smartphone operations like calling, texting, and internet browsing.

Goals: To stay connected with family and manage business communications.

Pain Points: Too many pre-installed apps, complicated settings, and difficulty in locating frequently used features.

Dialer

Contacts

Camera

Browser

Power

Files

Radio

Media

Uniform X

Understanding that modern smartphones serve functions beyond mere dialing, we prioritized a seamless experience by overhauling all stock Android applications. This redesign spanned the dialer, contact book, camera, media player, radio, file management and others, all fine-tuned to conform to a singular UX and UI standard. This uniformity aims to simplify navigation, especially for users transitioning to more advanced devices.

Process & Tasks

For Invendes, this project marked uncharted territory, demanding innovative strategies to meet The Client’s R&D expectations. Essentially a design-focused endeavor, our role was to transform client-provided insights into actionable app designs. The challenge lay in aligning our delivery with the agile development cycles of a 40-member developer team—a task easier said than done.

To best address the unique demands of this project, we organized ourselves into four specialized teams, each aligned with specific functional areas.

Thinking & Innovation

User research, design thinking workshops, discovery workshops, white boarding, team alignment

Team of 3 UX Consultants

Function & Interaction

New functional and UX paradigm called Uniform X. Interaction Design, Information Architecture

Team of 6 Interaction designers

UI & Design System

UI Design, UI Standards, UX Writing, Iconography, Typography, Brand and Colors

Team of 5 UI designers

Development Support

Design assets, Sync with Design Sprints, UI Specification, UI Documentation

Team of 2 UI designers

Inspiration

Every project has its unique quirks, and at UXD, we often print images or quotes to unify our teams around a central theme. For this endeavor, two key points stood out: 1) The core objective was to design an ultra-simple operating layer, with a focus on simplicity. 2) It posed a significant project management challenge, coordinating between 14 designers from our end and 40 developers from The Client. Both teams had to operate in alignment with insights provided by The Client’s research and strategy team. 

Don't make them THINK

To crystallize these focal points, we printed out posters that served as our north stars throughout the project. One was inspired by Steve Kurg himself

The two quotes we printed served distinct yet complementary roles: one acted as the strategic north star, guiding the overall vision, while the other functioned as a managerial mantra, ensuring we stayed aligned with project objectives. These became the pillars that inspired and steered all teams throughout the project.

Every project requires a guiding UX philosophy, and for this endeavor, we dubbed ours “Uniform X.” The project kick-off involved outlining the broad guidelines of Uniform X, which were to be elaborated upon as the project progressed.

Launcher

One of the best things about Android is the option they allow for customization and the phone launcher offered a great opportunity. To simplify the usage we suggested that we use clear visual cues with arrows and pulsating indicators. This was used as a Uniform X throughout all the apps we designed for the phone

Iconography

The team opted for skeuomorphic iconography and design, as it resonated well with the intended user persona and simplified the user interface.

Home Screen

Camera

To create a more user-friendly camera app, we introduced one-tap access to essential features, eliminating the need for intricate navigation. We also implemented a smart auto mode that automatically adjusts settings, allowing users to focus on capturing the moment rather than fiddling with controls. For any remaining manual options, we opted for clear, straight forward labels to ensure ease of use. These refinements aimed to deliver a hassle-free yet robust camera experience.

Focus

Grid

Video

Radio

For the radio app, we streamlined the user experience by introducing a preset stations feature that auto-tunes to popular local frequencies, reducing the need for manual scanning. We also simplified the interface, eliminating redundant options and retaining only core functions like volume and station list. To enhance usability further, we integrated an easy-to-find “favorites” section where users can quickly access their preferred stations

Media Player

We introduced a “Swipe Preview,” allowing users to swiftly skim through tracks with a swipe gesture for quick identification. Coupled with the “Mood Match” and voice-activated controls, these features aimed to offer an elevated level of findability, streamlining the user experience in a unique and intuitive way.

Contacts

Adding another layer of convenience, we integrated a natural language voice search, allowing quick, verbal queries to instantly filter contacts. These enhancements transform the contacts page into a dynamic tool that intuitively adapts to individual user needs.

In Conclusion

Spanning just over a year, the project saw continual collaboration between the UXD team and the client’s development unit. We not only met the set deadlines but surpassed them, delivering designs and assets ahead of schedule while maintaining a standard of work that exceeded client expectations.

As  the project came to a close, the revamped operating layer and native apps garnered positive reviews. However, the feedback underscored the need for additional simplification to truly convert our target persona into smartphone users. 

One crucial insight was the necessity for multilingual capabilities, a feature pivotal to broadening user adoption. This constructive feedback served as both affirmation and a roadmap for ongoing refinement, ensuring that our solutions remain aligned with the evolving needs of the user base.