Meet the app grid (launcher / app drawer). Before gunning everything down, let's find out the problem before fixing it. We should always try to live how we preach, right. My top issues with multiple pages, filled with app icons in an neverending array, are:
- Icon arrangement is the only way to personalize how the grid looks. It might work for some cases, but as it grows longer, it starts to be tedious to find anything from it.
- Related to the above, an even grid does not offer enough cues to find things in it. It's slow to scan through a single row after another.
- Moreover, icon folders/groups alone leave little room for building information hierarchies. Be it an app, contact or a link to a website, attaching them to your launcher makes everything one step closer to a mess you don't want to tread on. This is the point when Android home screens start to sound like a great idea.
- Finally, and partially related, your app usage is traditionally divided between a task switcher (active apps) and a launcher (installed apps). If the app is not present in the task switcher, you have to exit it, and go to the launcher instead. Even worse if you have to hunt through multiple home screens between the two.
While Sailfish OS already solves the last one by combining app drawer and switcher, to form a single location, the grid is still just a huge mass of identically spaced icon rows, with very little visual cues for our eyes to lock on. That's the gray part on the image below (click to enlarge).
The blue half of the image on the other hand, illustrates how user could arrange icons to support their personal use. Don't take it as a suggestion how to arrange anything, as it's just an illustration. Obviously, the problem exists also horizontally arranged pages, but the presented solution is a bit challenging to pull of in that direction.
If you find the idea ugly or messy, it's easy to understand. From a visual point of view, a repeating pattern and a strict order is appealing to look at, even though they harm the long term usability of finding things from it, especially when the amount of icons increase. Don't worry, it's not the first time usability and aesthetics collide.
It's also worth noting, that while most people might not concider the app grid a problem on their Android devices, they still like to pin app icons and other stuff on their home screens. It clearly tells that the grid quickly becomes unwieldly to browse.
Now, I would like to entertain a thought: what if the app grid would've been fixed to support more dynamic layout for people to personalize. As a part of the software, the launcher already exists. Why not make it more customizable, instead of building Home screens on top to hide the issue?
Would Android still have multiple home screens? Nobody knows.
Would it be simpler? Absolutely.
Would it break the Android UX? Nope, just that archaic app grid.