This for some reason is a huge issue for a lot of business owners, product owners and even UXD/UXA/UXE Designers. I’m not sure why because it’s pretty cut and dry but here we go down into the rabbit hole known as Chevrons or as some people refer to them, side arrows.
Chevrons, do you put them in your Android native app or not? This is the great and mighty debate raging on especially when it comes to iOS users that are designing Android apps and have rarely or never used and Android Phone. The are probably also new to or don’t even know about Google Material Design. Otherwise there would be no debate.
iOS/iPhone/iPad/etc… do you use Chevrons or not? The answer is probably more obvious as most designers are iPhone/iOS users and even though many of them don’t know or know very little about the Apple Human Interface Guidelines (HIG), they know what a chevron is because it’s literally everywhere even in Safari and apple’s own website not to mention in their apps, OS, and pretty much anything Apple. So the answer is YES. Use use chevrons which you can see in our simple side by side example below which is a closer look at Instagram who by and large doesn’t always follow standards and yet they did follow this one.
So, what about Android? The answer is a clear and precise NO! Oh, if only that was enough but I know all to well that this is not a good enough answer for most of you or someone you know, so I will dive into Chevrons and why you should rarely rarely practically never use them in your Native Android App.
Why don’t we use Chevrons in Android? If you follow all the principles of design, the basic ones, such as following your style guide to create consistency for the user, this alone should be enough. You see Google Material Design and Google Native Apps do not use Chevrons. Most users on Android do not even know what that side arrow does. Can they figure it out, of course they can but if you are trying, really trying, to design an app that is native to that users platform and thus environment, then you have to care for them in foundational ways all the way to the smallest detail. Right? If you disagree then STOP reading, put the blog down, walk away and change careers. Seriously… Ok, if you are still here then you are a great designer, passionate, willing to continue to get better. AWESOME!
Did you know that if you study it out over 96% of Android users hate Apple. I mean hate them. They never Apple people. They’ve never had one and don’t plan to have an iPhone or iPad. The other percentage have either switched from Apple’s iPhone to and Android Phone or have an Android Phone and also an iPad or Macbook Pro etc… That’s huge right? So if you hate Apple, do you think you’ll be happy seeing “Apple” stuff in your Android apps? You have to take yourself out of the equation. You HAVE to remove your opinion out of the design as much as possible. Be USER FOCUSED!! Put your user first. Design for them.
This goes both ways, if you are deep into Google Material Design or/and are an Android Phone user, do not put your likes of Android apps into your iOS designs. Why because guess what, yep 98% of iPhone users have never and will never use an Android Phone. They are vastly loyal and could careless about seeing Android OS stuff on their phones. Now this is tricky because Google has a lot of products, and some of them are apps such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, etc… that live also on iOS and have departed from Google Material Design very little. That is another blog post but I did not want to miss that fact here as I know some of you will be thinking about it.
A few more points as to why you should not use Chevrons in your Android Native App Designs. Reduce friction for the user, so that they don’t even have to think. For a lot of designers this is tricky because the Chevron naturally shows a user it’s clickable right? WRONG! Only in your iOS world, get out of your head lol. Android has it’s own visual cues to show it’s users what is tappable and what isn’t. Learn it, get into an Android app and use it. Even on your iPhone get into Google apps. Have empathy and understanding for your Android users. Don’t impose your opinion, feelings, iOS design guides, nor web design principles onto them. It’s not good design, it’s not good for the business, it’s not good for their customers. Another reason is adaptation, to reduce a break in learned behaviors and strong mental models. If you introduce new navigation patterns into your design, your user has to burn more calories, stop (friction), think more even if it’s sub-conscious, it will leave them will a feeling that the app is not designed well and even difficult to use. What does this do? It reduces your adaptation and usage. That means business owners, product owners… yep you’ve wasted money, time and effort on something people don’t use or rarely use. And yes, the devil is in the details.
So in conclusion, bottom line is we don’t use Chevrons in Android apps because they aren’t native components to that platform and do not serve the user natively and reduce consistency from app to app. When a user can pick up an app and it feels and works the same as their other apps, they are more likely to use it, use it more often and feel like it’s easy to use and even fun. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again here. Research is great. In fact you can rarely design something amazing with the user center of it all without good solid research and testing. But, and this is a BIG BUT, you never mess with foundational elements, components, patterns, etc… Even if they aren’t the best and need improvement and let’s be honest, nothing on earth is perfect. iOS and Android have much to improve on and are always growing and changing. The reason you don’t mess with these is clear, CONSISTENCY for the user is KING!
When something is core to an app for it’s respective platform, it’s been driven deep into the learned behavior and mental model of your users. They do these things like open their Drawer, Swipe against a tile, hit the CTAs without even a thought in well designed apps because it’s so deeply entrenched that it’s effortless which creates a great experience and serves your customers well. BURN OPINION! Follow Google Material Design the site and most of all look at the apps, that is where your user lives. Not bad apps, not random apps, but apps that follow Material, that adhere to the standards. Remember that Goole has millions and millions of users all over the world as does Apple, that use their apps daily. Millions use it every second. Don’t think for a second that you are so smart you’ll just change some core element, do a little research and testing and shove it down your users throats. It’ll blow up every single time.
I hope this has been helpful for you guys and that it will allow you to stand behind your good design decisions and teach you new ones to make you a more excellent designer of native mobile apps. Let’s grow together! Be sure and check out the YouTube Channel for more and have a beautiful blessed day!