Opinion

One of the best things about Samsung’s software right now is a surprising one

Intuitive and user-friendly software design is hard. No matter how simple you might make things, there are going to be users who scratch their heads at various aspects of your software. Samsung has been at the forefront of making its smartphone software easy to understand and operate (yes, despite adding a ton of features that many might call gimmicks), and with the refined version of its TouchWiz user interface, one of the changes made by the company over vanilla Android is something very simple yet very effective.

What is that change? It’s Samsung’s move to using full text for actionable buttons inside apps and the general interface over text-less icons. For advanced users and techies, it’s not hard to figure out what an icon in the interface might mean, but the general populace often sits about trying different options out just to see what they do. Take, for example, the copy and paste icons on Android. Us techies can easily understand that the “two squares next to each other” icon stands for the copying text function, but the average joe, for whom computing isn’t as easy as 1-2-3, that icon isn’t exactly simple.

Even Android’s share icon suffers from the same issue. Again, it’s not that hard to see that an icon which shows two branches going out of a single dot means we can make an image or file available to other people, but it’s not as easy to comprehend for the general smartphone using population as it often requires them to spend a second or two pondering over what to press.

Using text for these actions is as simple as it can get if you want to make it easier for your users to understand what button does what, and Samsung rightfully swapped out all those non-user-friendly Android icons for plain text. You still have those icons all across the interface, but barring the camera app, you’ll see an icon’s description right below it. It’s something other companies should be copying shamelessly, and we can only hope software makers begin to simplify their user interfaces through similarly minor changes.

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ewilts
ewilts

I agree with this – even for techies, it’s always a challenge to figure out what the icon of the day is. How was I supposed to know that on an iPad, it’s a square box with an arrow leaving it versus the Android way? The whole planet seems to have suffered from iconitis – a picture is not always worth 1,000 words! And it’s especially not useful to replace a single word with a picture.

Wilksie
Wilksie

I’ll be honest and say I much prefer text over an icon any day.

Moving away from confusing icons it the way forward. I understand it makes it easier in multi-language markets so you don’t have to translate all the icon texts but I’ll confess that I’m a tech geek and once or twice I’ve had to pause and think what the icons do.

Explaining it to people who aren’t as tech savvy is a common thing for me.

Well done Samsung.

harinsheth
harinsheth

NO…U R HALF RI8 FRIEND…FROM S6 THEY REMOVED FEATURE OF ” AIR VIEW ” … IN S5 WHEN WE HOVER HAND IN ANY ICON WE GET ITS NAME … S6 DONT HAVE FEATURE SO THEY HAVE TO WROTE FULL…NOTE 4 ALSO DONT HAVE THAT FEATURE BUT WITH S PEN U CAN READ NAME OF ANY ICON…SO IT WAS MUST TO IMPROVE TOUCHWIZ IN S6…I M NOT SURPRISING. ..

ProdByEchelon
ProdByEchelon

I agree with this. It’s one of the reasons i rooted my Note 4 and use the Note 5 TouchWiz, apps etc.

manojmcn
manojmcn

Well written Abhijeet. This was one of the main points of focus at the S6/Edge launch event and they did spend a few minutes explaining this. I am hoping all the new good initiatives plus return of missed features (like micro SD) will converge to bring out the best Android devices next year in the form of S7 & Note 6 and some other surprises.