Cyril Mottier

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

Shaping the Future of Android With Dart

In the past week there have been a tremendous number of discussions, tweets, posts, articles, etc. about some new and modern programming languages. There is no doubt that these sudden swirls have been motivated by Apple unveiling a brand new language called Swift at WWDC 2014. Being on vacation for the past two weeks, I have read quite a lot about the Swift programming language, its syntax, its features, its Objective-C interoperability, etc. But I have also seen some people claiming Android, from a developer point of view, is out of date compared to iOS? Why? Because it is based on Java.

To be honest, I agree with them. It has been a long time I have been claiming Google should ditch Java for another language. The thing is I think Google has been working on a replacement programming language just as long as Apple did – in secret – on Swift (i.e. 2010). So? What is this modern programming language? Some people think Go would be a great fit, I personally think Dart is more appropriate. I read and learned a lot about Dart during my vacation. From my point of view, for many reasons Dart is better for Android than Go: it is more mature, it is VM-based (just like Java), it better fits the Google ecosystem and it has an extremely easy learning curve while still remaining a simple language. It’s clearly time for Google to make Dart the future of Android and, in a global fashion, the future of the company itself.

Custom Animations With Fragments

Note: I generally blog about subjects I don’t deal with in my day to day life at work. However, the article below mentions some work I have done at Capitaine Train. As a consequence, I think a disclaimer is needed here: I work for Capitaine Train, but the opinions expressed on my blog or anywhere else (Twitter, Google+, etc.), are my own, and have nothing to do with my employer.

In the past few months, I have been working on developing an Android application from the ground up. This app named after the name of the company, Capitaine Train, can be downloaded on the Google Play Store. Capitaine Train – which can literally be translated as “Captain Train” in English – is a 3-year-old startup born from a simple truth: getting train tickets in Europe was a pain in the ass. We, at Capitaine Train, aim to revolutionize the way people travel all around Europe by simplifying the overall train experience. The release of the Android application clearly represented an important step forward in this direction.

Trying to revolutionize the train experience in Europe is not easy. It requires us to achieve a tremendous amount of work: getting to know the various carriers, learning about the document/reservation requirements for each of them, integrating their price/time tables, binding our servers to their systems, etc. From a user point of view all of this is the hidden, but vital, part of the iceberg. Indeed, a travel need or desire starts from a simple search request: From where? To where? When? Who? Although these questions are simple, the search step is extremely important in the booking process. This is where the trip actually begins after all! We designed the Android app keeping this essential idea in mind by simplifying every bit of the process. In this article, I would like to tell you the story behind the implementation of the search experience in the Android app and how we used animations to enrich the user experience.

Blogging and Sharing - Diversifying

Recently, I have been asked several times why I wasn’t blogging anymore. The answer to this query is quite simple: I have been both busy and lazy^^. Busy mainly because of the enormous amount of time I have spent working on, polishing and tweaking the Capitaine Train Android application. Lazy because … hmmmm well, I’m sure you’ll agree with me, it’s relaxing to be lazy from time to time!

Me not posting on my personal blog doesn’t mean I’m not active anymore. Even though I’m not publishing new articles here, I usually keep on sharing some of my thoughts on UI, UX, mobile development – or more generally on all of the topics I love discussing about – on some other web media. In this article, I would like to discuss about these web media I appreciate and use regularly.

Google Maps Android PSD V2

A year ago I shared some graphic assets to help developers and designers create applications that are consistent with other map-based Android UIs. At that time, Google Maps Android API v2 didn’t exist and developers had to use the Google Maps External Library which was – I won’t mince words – so poorly implemented you had to create everything on your own (markers, info windows, etc.)…

The release of Google Maps Android API v2 has been a huge step forward regarding map rendering capabilities on Android. The new framework has suffered and still suffers from sometimes unpleasant drawbacks1. From a designer point of view, it has one main advantage over the previous framework: it is bundled with a bunch of default resources. In other words, Google Maps Android API v2 helps developers with no particular design-skills to create nice-looking maps and improve design consistency through applications.

A Productive Android Development Environment

In the past 6 months, my Android development environment has changed quite a lot. If you follow me on Google+ and/or Twitter, you may have noticed these changes reading some of my latest tips. I love talking about UI and performance but I also seriously consider tools are crucial entities in the process of developing nice and polished Android apps. In this post, I share about my experience and the tools I use everyday when coding:

  • A blazingly fast virtual device: Genymotion
  • A powerful IDE: Android Studio
  • An evolved build system: Gradle

Pushing the ActionBar to the Next Level

Back in November 2012, I wrote a blog post entitled “ActionBar on the Move”. This article was mainly dealing with a technique to nicely and uniquely animate your ActionBar. Although I mentioned some of the effect’s possible applications, I never had time to effectively add an ActionBar animation to one of my own apps nor saw an application on the Play Store taking advantage of it.

While being at Google I/O last week, I finally found an application using the ActionBar animation technique. Let’s be honest, it literally blew my mind the first time I saw it. I felt in love with the nice, subtle and yet extremely useful animated effect probably more than the entire app itself! I am pretty sure you know the application I am talking about as it has been presented during the Google I/O keynote. You have also probably recently received an update of it: Play Music!

Enhancing Google Maps API V2 With Polaris V2

In October 2012, I released a library called Polaris. At that time, the library received quite a lot of success because it was really filling the mammoth blanks of the Google Maps external library (aka Google Maps Android API v1): effortless map annotation, gesture support, map callout support, built-in “user tracking” mode, etc. If you have never heard of Polaris feel free to checkout one of the links below:

Redesigning cyrilmottier.com

Some of you may have noticed the maintenance page this weekend and the new face of this website. I’ve recently spent some time lately working on a complete redesign of my cyrilmottier.com domain. Here is a brief explanation of the motivations behind this redesign and a list of the main changes.

3 or 4 months ago I received an email from my host telling me they were dropping support of my old version of PHP (5.2). The version of Wordpress used for my android.cyrilmottier.com blog was so old it wasn’t supporting the PHP 5.4 and can’t even upgrade itself to a PHP 5.4 compliant version… Not being a server/backend guy, I decided to go for a complete redesign of both the guts and the look of cyrilmottier.com.

Android App Launching Made Gorgeous

I will never say it out loud enough: always do overwhelm your users with your mobile apps. One of the most important way to mind-blow your users is to polish what is usually called the first impression. Indeed, the first impression is essential if you want to catch your users’ attention. Contrary to what most people think, this process doesn’t start at the first launch of your application. It starts way before this when your potential users are looking at your app’s description, screenshots, icons, reviews, etc. in the Google Play Store.

This is only after the user has downloaded and launched the app you can start thinking of gradually engaging her/him, presenting an awesome user interface, displaying a minimalist setup, etc. A recent study measured the importance of the first impression and determined 26% of all apps downloaded are opened only once and then never used again. Only 26% were used 11 times or more. Of the remaining 48% of apps: 13% are opened only twice, 9% are opened only three times, and so on. Regarding such figures, there is no need to tell how crucial the polishing of the first impression is if you want your app to survive in the “apps jungle”.

Back to Top: Android vs. iOS

I generally don’t talk a lot about iOS on this blog. I’ll be honest with you, it is not because I consider iOS as an evil platform. As an extremely curious person, I just hate that iOS is a closed-source platform. I would really love to look at the implementation of some parts of the system or framework sometimes. However, Apple’s iOS remains an incredibly awesome mobile platform to develop for and to use. I assure you the APIs are gorgeous. From the UI point of view, iOS also has tons of exciting features, one of which is the “tap status bar to scroll to top”.

The purpose of this article is to give you a clear explanation about the control offered by Android over scroll containers. I have intentionally used iOS to do the comparison because the philosophy behind scroll containers in iOS is relatively different than Android.