May 25 AT 3:46 PM Clark Wimberly 11 Comments

Android And Me RSS Widget Gets a Facelift

The Android And Me RSS Widget has been out for about a week now and already has hundreds of downloads. Justin did a great job getting it up and running quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I didn’t have time to design a skin for it like Taylor had asked. Taylor even called me out in a post last week, “Again, I am trying to see if Mr. Clark has enough time to design a fancy skin for it.” Whether Justin works too quickly or I’m just far, far too lazy is neither here nor there, but I’ve got good news: I found some time to crank out a few drafts of the new skin. In a few comments in the market, some users mentioned they wished the text was on white, which should help readability and just match our site a bit better. But the updates are more than just color, we’ve also got a few new options and display modes.

Default widget view, 4x1 white space, displaying one entry

New Default Skin

The regular widget is still a 4×1 sized block that shows the latest post from Android And Me, but with a few small changes. Like I said earlier, the whole thing is now white which should help readability and just looks a bit cleaner. It also has a relative time stamp (e.g. “2 hours ago” – just to make sure you know just how behind you are). It also has a read more link – click anywhere in the entry to jump to the post on our mobile site. Clicking anywhere across the top of the widget will launch it into full screen mode.

Full screen mode, displaying the five most recent entries

Full Screen Mode

In full screen more, the widget displays the most recent five posts, all with timestamps and in alternating row colors. Again, the posts all have a read more links for jumping to the full article on the mobile site. In the bottom corner, there is a button for loading up the next five entries right in the widget. Also in full screen mode there is a small space in the top right corner for site announcements, anything we want to make ‘sticky’ to make sure as many readers as possible can see it, like when we launch a new bounty.

Mini widget displaying snippet of latest post

1×1 Mini Widget

One new feature dreamed up was the option to flip the widget into mini mode. The widget crunches down to a 1×1 piece of real estate (side note: in doing research for these drafts to make sure my sizing was correct and feasible I found plenty of help online, like Widget Design Guidelines, a page from the official Android Developers site). At best, the mini widget will only be able to display a few words of the most recent headline, but, combine that with a time stamp and its a decent amount of info for such a small space. Again, clicking any part of the entry will launch the mobile site, while clicking the top of the widget will launch full screen mode (as shown above).

Notification alert icon displaying two missed posts

Notification Alert Mode

Home screen way too crowded? Even too cramped to fit the 1×1 mini widget? Got you covered, with the notification alert mode. This mode would let the widget run silently in the background and then just display an icon (and optional alert, tone, light, etc) each time the site is updated. If you don’t catch it right away, the icon will just compile the number of entries you missed.

Full screen mode, with an active announcement

Conclusion

So far, this has been a really fun project for me. I’ve been using the RSS widget for about a week now so it was interesting to take that knowledge into a design process and just play around with it some. I think the new skin and display options should help the widget find a place in any phone setup, whether you’ve got space to spare or only want the bare minimum. As I worked on the drafts, more ideas for new features kept popping up (including the comments, even more display options, etc), but I figured I’ve already bitten off more than enough for one update, and I thought it would be fun to get some input from our readers before we committed to anything. What new features would you guys like to see? Is there anything we’ve completely overlooked?

Clark is a developer living in Austin, Texas. He runs ClarkLab, a small web firm with his wife, Angie. He's a big fan of usability, standards, and clean design.

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