Cyril Mottier

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

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.

The Google Maps Android API V2 Utopia

One of the major announcement this week was the release, by Google, of a new maps framework: the Google Maps Android API v2. It is nothing to say that this new framework was overwhelmingly expected among the Android developer and user communities. Indeed, while the Google Maps app was using vector-based maps and 3D rendering since its version 5.0 (working on Froyo+), these features weren’t available to third-party applications. The only option at this time was to continue leveraging (yep that’s not a joke) the long-outdated Google Maps Android API v1…

As the creator and developer of Polaris – a library greatly enhancing the features of Google Maps API v1 with effortless map annotating, gesture support, map callout support, built-in “user tracking” mode, etc. – and the developer of AVélov – a map-based application to determine the availability of city bikes/slots in Lyon, France – I really wanted to have a look at the new version of the framework. So did I and here is a feedback after 5 days playing with it.

ActionBar on the Move

Edit (11/27/12): Added a video demonstrating the result on a Nexus 7 running on Android 4.1

Over the past year, the ActionBar paradigm has become an essential component in the process of designing and developing an Android application. Indeed, the ActionBar has many advantages that help developers in future-proofing their apps. It contains contextual actions, can be customized fairly easily, is highly scalable, etc. Because of this, one should ALWAYS consider using the ActionBar UI pattern in one’s design process when creating a new Android app.

ActionBar features a lot of interesting styling APIs. These APIs let you brand your application so that it fits your design, while still being recognizable among other applications. Put simply, there are almost no limits to what you can do with an ActionBar. Until you try doing something more advanced …

Meet Polaris, a Map Library for Android

It’s been almost three years since Google last updated the Google Maps framework for Android. As you all know, this external library can be used to integrate map-related features into your applications. Unfortunately, in addition to getting old, this framework also suffers from a lot of limitations. I’ve recently spent a lot of time working on a map-based application of mine called AVélov and encountered a lot of issues while developing it. To make my life easier (as well as yours), I started creating a library with highly reusable components.