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supercow

android (Archived) Improve Android UI for notebook/tag users

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The Android UI is rather counter-intuitive for users who make extensive use of notebooks (or tags) to organise their notes. The 2 main culprits :

1) the left arrow button "<" in the top left, beside the elephant icon

2) the dropdown list at the top of the screen

 

Scenario

 

Say for example I'm a zoologist who likes fruits, so depending on the time of the day, I use different notebooks to store different notes. I make 2 notebooks, fruits and animals, and eventually these notebooks each have 20 notes.

 

Fruit (notebook)

- note on apples

- note on oranges

- insert another 17 notes...

- note on strawberries

 

Animals (notebook)

- note on lions

- note on tigers

- insert another 17 notes...

- note on zebras

 

1) Left Arrow grief

 

When the app starts up, I'm at work, so i tap "notebooks", and it takes me to a list of notebooks. I tap the "animals" notebook, it brings me to all my animal notes, sorted by date updated (how I like it). So I scroll down, find the "lions" note, then tap and update it. As I update the "lions" note, I suddenly remember something about tigers I want to make a note about. I tap the left arrow that beside the evernote elephant ...

 

And it takes me back to the start screen? Why? Shouldn't it take me back to the list-of-notes-in-animals screen? 

 

So now I'm at the start screen with the "lions" note partially visible on the right edge of the screen. To edit the "tigers" note, I have to tap notebooks, tap the "animals" notebook (again), scroll and tap the "tigers" note, then finally I can update it.

 

Rinse and repeat 10 times over the course of an hour, and it gets VERY frustrating. I know I can use the android's physical back button on the phone to go back to the list-of-notes-in-animals screen, but I just tap the left arrow over and over again because

a ) it's there and

b ) it's become intuitive to me as an android user that "back" means "previous screen". "Back" does not mean "back to the start" in the android world.

 
Please put a "home" button somewhere, and make the left arrow go back just 1 level ...
 
2) Dropdown list grief
 
The dropdown list is also pretty misleading. For whatever strange design decision, this actually controls the sort settings. Shouldn't this be handled in the settings button? There's even a settings button at the bottom right (3 vertical dots) for it. This isn't so bad in the list-of-notebooks screen, but it is horribly misleading in the list-of-notes-in-notebooks screen.
 
To use the same scenario, what if, while scrolling through the "animals" notebook, I suddenly remember a fact about strawberries that I make to make a note of?
 
So now I'm in the "Animals" notebook screen. The dropdown list actually says "Notes in Animals". You'd think that the dropdown list would allow you to switch quickly to another notebook. I.e. The dropdown list would display "Note in Animals", "Notes in Fruits", "Notes in some-other-notebook" and so on. But it doesn't. I HAVE to go to the main screen to change to another notebook.
 
The same goes for tags. If I'm at the list-of-notes-tagged-mammals screen, I'd expect the dropdown list to be context sensitive and display the list of tags I have. Not the sort settings. Sort isn't something (most) people would change all the time, I'd think most people would just stick to 1 sort type and stick to it. Why make it so accessible?
 
Please change the behaviour of the dropdown list to become context sensitive and hide the sort settings in the settings button ...

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Rinse and repeat 10 times over the course of an hour, and it gets VERY frustrating. I know I can use the android's physical back button on the phone to go back to the list-of-notes-in-animals screen, but I just tap the left arrow over and over again because

a ) it's there and

b ) it's become intuitive to me as an android user that "back" means "previous screen". "Back" does not mean "back to the start" in the android world.

 

Please put a "home" button somewhere, and make the left arrow go back just 1 level ...

It appears that the left arrow next to the elephant *is* a Home button. If you wanted to make the native Android left button do something different (like expose the prior tag or notebook screen), that would be OK in my book. On the other hand, you can just slide the note list screen to the right to expose the tag or notebook filter screens, which isn't so hard.

 

2) Dropdown list grief

 

The dropdown list is also pretty misleading. For whatever strange design decision, this actually controls the sort settings. Shouldn't this be handled in the settings button? There's even a settings button at the bottom right (3 vertical dots) for it. This isn't so bad in the list-of-notebooks screen, but it is horribly misleading in the list-of-notes-in-notebooks screen.

Having sorting be accessible is actually a good idea. Just because your workflow doesn't have you setting it often doesn't mean that others have the same criteria. For example, the note list (or what you call the "list-of-note-in-notebooks screen", since it's the same screen when you are displaying all notes, or all notes from a stack, or all notes with a particular tag) : OK, now that you have your list, what operations can I do with it? Well, I might want to sort it. Or I can change the display from list to snippets or vice-versa. And those operations are right there, in a handy location. I'm not sure what you find is so horribly misleading about that. It would be terrible to make a user go to the settings dialog for that, though, I'd say.

 

To use the same scenario, what if, while scrolling through the "animals" notebook, I suddenly remember a fact about strawberries that I make to make a note of?

 

So now I'm in the "Animals" notebook screen. The dropdown list actually says "Notes in Animals". You'd think that the dropdown list would allow you to switch quickly to another notebook. I.e. The dropdown list would display "Note in Animals", "Notes in Fruits", "Notes in some-other-notebook" and so on. But it doesn't. I HAVE to go to the main screen to change to another notebook.

The same goes for tags. If I'm at the list-of-notes-tagged-mammals screen, I'd expect the dropdown list to be context sensitive and display the list of tags I have. Not the sort settings. Sort isn't something (most) people would change all the time, I'd think most people would just stick to 1 sort type and stick to it. Why make it so accessible?

You don't HAVE to go back to the main screen for this. What *I* do is to just slide the note list screen to the right, and voilá, there is the notebook screen (if I am filtering via notebooks) or the tag screen (if I an filtering via tags), ready for my new selection. I'm not so sure as you are that putting something like that in the dropdown list makes more sense, particularly when filtering by tags: I have ~200 tags, and some people have over 1000; that would be a very poor UI choice indeed.

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edit : minor grammar error.

 

It appears that the left arrow next to the elephant *is* a Home button. If you wanted to make the native Android left button do something different (like expose the prior tag or notebook screen), that would be OK in my book. On the other hand, you can just slide the note list screen to the right to expose the tag or notebook filter screens, which isn't so hard.

 
My main gripe was that by tapping the left arrow while I'm in a note, I'm taken 3 levels back.
 
main <- notebook list <- note list <- note
 
If i had wanted to edit a note in the same notebook, I'd have to navigate another 3 levels again. It's frustrating to do that repeatedly. There's just no easy way (besides the back button) to go back 1 level.
 
You're right in that the left arrow functions like a home button, I just wish it didn't. 

 

Having sorting be accessible is actually a good idea. Just because your workflow doesn't have you setting it often doesn't mean that others have the same criteria. For example, the note list (or what you call the "list-of-note-in-notebooks screen", since it's the same screen when you are displaying all notes, or all notes from a stack, or all notes with a particular tag) : OK, now that you have your list, what operations can I do with it? Well, I might want to sort it. Or I can change the display from list to snippets or vice-versa. And those operations are right there, in a handy location. I'm not sure what you find is so horribly misleading about that. It would be terrible to make a user go to the settings dialog for that, though, I'd say.

 
I enter notes on my mobile phone most of the time, so there isn't much screen real estate. While I personally prefer list view because of the space constrains, there would certainly be others who would prefer the snippet view. However, I really doubt there's much of a use case for quick switching between list and snippet view as they are really more or less the same thing. I still think most would prefer one or the other and stick to it. 
 
The remaining 3 items in the dropdown list are sorts : Sort by Date Updated, Sort by Title and Others. These are options that change the "view" of the screen. Imo these are app configuration and would be better placed in settings.
 
Besides, putting these options in settings do not mean that they would be hidden many levels away. It could be as simple as tapping the settings button (3 vertical dots) at the bottom right and having these 3 options appear there.
 
The reason I find the dropdown items misleading is because "main" (as in prominent and at the top) dropdown lists are hardly ever used for configuration settings. It'll be like clicking the address bar in your browser to find configurations like "change font size" and "show/hide menu". It's not "wrong", but I do find them pretty weird.
 

To use the same scenario, what if, while scrolling through the "animals" notebook, I suddenly remember a fact about strawberries that I make to make a note of?

So now I'm in the "Animals" notebook screen. The dropdown list actually says "Notes in Animals". You'd think that the dropdown list would allow you to switch quickly to another notebook. I.e. The dropdown list would display "Note in Animals", "Notes in Fruits", "Notes in some-other-notebook" and so on. But it doesn't. I HAVE to go to the main screen to change to another notebook.

The same goes for tags. If I'm at the list-of-notes-tagged-mammals screen, I'd expect the dropdown list to be context sensitive and display the list of tags I have. Not the sort settings. Sort isn't something (most) people would change all the time, I'd think most people would just stick to 1 sort type and stick to it. Why make it so accessible?

You don't HAVE to go back to the main screen for this. What *I* do is to just slide the note list screen to the right, and voilá, there is the notebook screen (if I am filtering via notebooks) or the tag screen (if I an filtering via tags), ready for my new selection. I'm not so sure as you are that putting something like that in the dropdown list makes more sense, particularly when filtering by tags: I have ~200 tags, and some people have over 1000; that would be a very poor UI choice indeed.

 
Hmmm, sliding the note list screen to the right brings me back to the main screen with the note list partially visible at the right. It's as if I tapped the left arrow while at the note list screen. I _have_ to go to the main screen to switch notebooks.

This is worse if I'm in a particular note (say Animals:Lion) and I want to switch to edit a note in another notebook (say Fruits:Apple). I have to traverse all the way through main-> notebook list -> note list -> note again. Maybe I'm missing something, but there's just no easy way to switch notebooks/tags quickly.

But you're right in that the dropdown list isn't a good UI element for switching notebooks/tags if you have hundreds or even thousands of them. Now if only the left arrow went back just 1 level .....

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You can believe that the the list/snippet choice and sorting options are application settings and therefore ought be be set in the Setting dialog, but the virtue of having them on a drop down above the list is having a convenient locality of control to an associated UI element. You don't need to go searching to find the tools that operate on this list; they're right there. I don't see how less availability is a win for anyone, and I don't presume to know whether other folks' workflows use switching in sorting or view types often or rarely (I'm trying to learn to not be surprised that other people don't operate the same way that I do). In truth, I'd like more options on these dropdowns than exist already; for example choosing notebook contexts like All Notebooks, All My Notebooks, Business Notebooks, etc. for the Notebook panel, and Clear Tags for the Tag panel.  As it is, the Evernote UI has improved since I started using the Evernote client about a year ago, and this part makes sense to me. Because of the limited real-estate available, UI can be a real trial on these devices.

 

On a tablet (ok, Kindle Fire), when I slide the note screen to the right, I see three panels: the main/Home page (not sure what the actual name for this is), the left side of either the notebook or tags panel in the middle, partially covered by the note list panel on the right. Slide the notebook or tag panel to the left to expose its full UI, but with the note list still partially showing. So it's two swipes to get to this panel. Or a swipe and a tap to switch from a notebook filter to a tag filter, or vice-versa. Perhaps on non-table devices, the partial showing of tag/notebook selection panel doesn't happen. Edit: actually I don't always get this effect; often I swipe from the left edge, and the main panel isn't exposed. It's just the notebook/tag panel on the left and the note panel on the right. Switching notebooks or tags is very quick in these cases: Just flick and pick.

 

Keeping the current "<" by the element as a Home button is fine; as I said before, I'd have no problem if the standard back button took you back to a previous panel rather than to "Home"; i.e., two separate operations for two useful functions.

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