Refactoring the UI

Photo by woodleywonderworksI tend to be involved in a lot of change, and one of the things I hear frequently is “That sounds like a good idea, but it wouldn’t work in our situation”. The “good idea” and the “our situation” vary widely, but the typical outcome is that it can work in our situation provided we’re sufficiently imaginative.

I was pleased, then, to see one of the smaller changes at Google I/O 2015. Google has provided a good demonstration of refactoring, but outside of the usual domain (coding): the user interface. In preparing Android for secure sign-in without passwords they’ve broken the username and password setup screen down to two separate screens. Ars Technica explains:

Setup’s easy update means that if Google ever does come up with a different way to sign in, it can be pushed down to every Lollipop device, and users can seamlessly use it on their devices.

User experience and the UI is too often seen as a holistic affair—it’s often difficult to change a part without rearranging the whole. Or else it’s deemed unnecessary to change a part if you’re not going to change the whole. But that’s what software developers would also say before refactoring and incremental delivery became fairly commonplace. As the developers found out, it is possible to change piece by piece and still retain the integrity of the whole. Similarly, Google has shown how it’s possible to take one step in evolving a UI, avoiding the problems of a big bang change, enabling a drop-in part, but keeping the overall integrity.

Sure, it’s not earth shattering. But it’s a good example of how a little imagination can be used to apply a good practice away from its home ground.

Photo by woodleywonderworks