[Interview] How Designers Have Made One UI’s Usability Even Better for Galaxy Users

Unlike in the past when cellphones had physical buttons and a limited number of features, smartphones now offer a wide range of functions that we access by interacting with our devices’ touchscreens. However, using the same component that serves as the device’s viewing medium for the primary input tool can sometimes present difficulties for users.

This is where the device’s user interface (UI) comes into play, with the experience of the users in interacting with it referred to as the user experience (UX). In 2018, Samsung introduced an improved version of its standard user interface and software overlay called ‘One UI’.

As well as working to make them intuitive, consistent, and effective, UX designers try to base user interface interactions on the way we use physical objects in the wider world to promote familiarity. For example, users turn a digital page in an e-book just like they would a physical page, or slide their cards up in the Samsung Pay app in a way that mimics how they would remove a card from their wallet. But what do UX designers do when there is no way to base interactions on real-world actions? Samsung Newsroom sat down with the designers of One UI to find out.

An Interface to Help You Stay on Task

The concept of One UI started with the idea to try and help the busy users of today stay focused by simplifying their interactions with their smartphones. One UI designer Soeyoun Yim explained that the process of designing the interface was undertaken based on the concept of ‘everyday simplicity’, saying that, “One UI was designed to help users focus on important tasks by eliminating distractions.”

Now, One UI has been further developed into ‘One UI 2’, which was unveiled at the end of last year. This upgraded interface incorporates the icons from One UI in new styles and configurations, and includes revamped colors and movements. In addition, One UI 2 makes the icons more conspicuous with distinct color tones and motions, for instance when the ‘settings’ icon trembles to let users know that an update is underway.

‘Simplicity’ – to Help You Focus on What Matters

Simplicity was the number one priority for the designers when developing One UI 2. To that end, the pop-up screens that appear at the top and bottom of the screen were made more compact and simplistic to keep users from getting distracted while making use of features.

The camera app has also been simplified to ensure that the basic operation of the app isn’t impeded, and prevent users from getting distracted while they’re taking their picture. Taehee Hwang, the UX designer responsible for the camera app, outlined how this makes the user experience more straightforward. “The basic photo and video modes can be accessed at the bottom of the screen, while special modes such as the Food and Night modes can be accessed by selecting or swiping through to ‘More’,” she related. “This simplifies what is displayed on the screen so that users can concentrate on taking their picture.”

‘Comfort’ – So Your Eyes and Fingers Can Take It Easy

Making user interactions more comfortable and facilitating one-handed use were also at the fore of the development of One UI 2. Whereas One UI designated the top and bottom sections of the screen as the ‘viewing’ and ‘interaction’ areas respectively, One UI 2 allows the majority of tasks to be completed within the lower area of the screen. Moreover, for actions that require interaction in the top part of the screen, unnecessary finger movements were minimized to improve comfort and convenience.

The same principles were applied to the keyboard, making it possible for users to perform other tasks while keeping their fingers within the keyboard area. For example, by long-pressing the space bar, users can now control the position of the cursor from within the keyboard window without having to interact with the main text body. In addition, users can swipe left or right with two fingers to undo and redo actions, and adjust the dimensions of their keyboard to better match the size of their hands.

The ‘dark mode’ feature has been shown to reduce eyestrain, and One UI 2 has expanded the number of apps within which it can be applied. “Dark mode has been expanded to a number of apps that it wasn’t previously accessible in,” said Yim, “To make it more comfortable to use devices in the dark we are also applying a darkening filter to background wallpaper displays.” Yim also spoke to the designers’ efforts to further ease eyestrain, relating that, “An algorithm has been incorporated that analyzes the background image on the lock screen and automatically shows the time in the color that will show up best against that backdrop.”

‘Convenience’ – Streamlining Rich Experiences

The ‘Single take’ feature comes with One UI 2 on the Galaxy S20 and is capable of using Ultra wide, Live focus, and short video features to deliver various photo styles and results, all with a single shot. “We started by asking ourselves two questions,” explained Hwang, “Firstly, how can we make sure the users enjoy the moment? And secondly, how can we deliver a variety of results without requiring the user to do more than take a simple, standard shot?”

While explaining what went into developing the feature, Hwang explained that, “Since this feature was to be introduced on the Galaxy S20, we decided that a help message should be displayed when the user entered Single take mode. Moreover, to allow the user to view a wide range of results simultaneously on the same screen we introduced a new kind of viewer.”

The video calling feature was also further upgraded with the integration of ‘Google Duo,’ Google’s simple, high-quality video calling app. Sueyeon Lee, the designer in charge of integrating Google Duo and One UI, elaborated on the designers’ efforts to improve convenience, saying, “Our goal was to make the user experience more convenient by making the features of Google Duo the default for Galaxy devices.”

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