I was shocked today when I opened the iA Writer app again after a few weeks of automatically installed updates. The developers started tipping their toes into the Android ecosystem just recently with iA Writer and the early versions were quite a bit rough (read: laggy) and you could see the iOS ui shining through the cracks.

iA Writer Screenshot

Yet it seemed promising and I decided to follow their progress through the alpha channel, hoping that it would get better once the devs get accustomed to the new environment. However today I uninstalled the app for a few reasons and here’s why:

  1. In the last few years it has somehow become a common thing to just port your existing iOS apps more or less directly to Android. Recently Material Design and Apples milky glass design have converged so much that most people wouldn’t even notice anymore (especially through some corporate branding). But the point still stands that you can sugar coat your app however you like, it will still stand out negatively from all the native apps.

    iOS UX

    There’s still strong iOS UX rules in there, like the action button as text in the upper right corner or even worse the settings button on the upper left corner. Followed by the rotated Caret icon that usually indicates a navigatable sublevel on iOS but is commonly frowned upon on Android.

    iOS UX

    The most pain points and their remedies have been addressed by Chris O’Sullivan in his article on Tuts+.

  2. It got advertised to be so simplistic as to not have the facilities to change the font. Still the ability to alter the font size somehow crept in. Material design generally suggests sensible defaults that result in a pleasant and readable text display (even on ancient Android 1.x phones).

    iA Writer Settings "Activity"

  3. The navigation through the app is seriously broken. E.g. You have to exit the Settings Activity throug the done button in the upper right. Pressing the Android back button takes you back to the previous application (Fragment Backstack not used correctly).

    This seriously interrupts the flow on Android when you try to navigate through an app and end up some random place. Google’s own Designers Roman Nurik and Viktor Persson have published a guide on how to properly port to Android that puts this very well:

    The system Back button will be always available on every Android device, either as a physical button or on the screen in the system navigation bar.

  4. I’m slightly annoyed that they decided to start adding backends to their otherwise pristine app. Granted, Google Docs and Dropbox support has been there since pretty much day one, but exporting to Medium?

    Full disclosure: I didn’t check, but it’s still safe to assume: Unless they also just ported their iOS app to Android the Medium app should expose the compose blog post activity. So that other apps can call it via Intent and have all relevant fields be prepopulated. (What if someone wanted to have Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger or Facebook Notes support in there?)

  5. They half-assedly integrated the Storage Access Framework a few releases ago, which until today is totally broken: When trying to open a document from storage they show a save dialog instead. Exporting a document as plain text fires a share intent instead.

    Share to Save

This editor is clearly made for blogging, thus they tried to integrate functions that would appeal to bloggers. On the other hand, they don’t seem to keep their promise of just you and the text for simplicity’s sake. I’m going back to Monospace.