Embibe – An innovative service let down by a poor Android app.

For those who don’t know what Embibe is: it’s an Indian based website (from Indiavidual Learning) that helps you prepare for examinations like the IIT-JEE and Board exams. The site asks you questions, and their algorithm throws tougher questions at you when you are able to solve them. You can also view your records and statistics, helping you spend more time in areas that you are weaker in. You can find more info here.

The Embibe website.

The Embibe website.

I am going to be blunt: the website is great, and the idea is innovative, but their mobile application is a big disappointment. Am I being too harsh? I don’t think of it that way. Mobile is the present and the future, so it is a MUST to have a clean, efficient mobile application. (No, a web page does NOT count. I’ll get into more of that later.)

The App

First up, the logo is simple and beautiful. When you launch the app however, a splash screen is shown. Yes – a splash screen. This isn’t 2010! A splash screen deters from the experience of entering your app. It’s just another hurdle for the user to get over. If you want to brand your app, you can use your logo the action bar, which I’ll get into soon.

I think one of the biggest issues with this app is that it’s targeted to a lower API level, not the latest API level 17: which is why the Menu Button of Shame (shown in the image) is present. This NEEDS to go.

Splash Screen, and Menu Button of Shame

Splash Screen, and Menu Button of Shame

Once the app launches, you get sent to an empty screen, that does absolutely nothing. As you can see, the action bar has been replaced by some toggle that does nothing but allow me to log out. This can easily be replaced by a stock Action Bar, in which you can use your logo for branding as well. This ‘Action Bar’ can hold the settings, as well as ‘Search’ or other frequently used actions.

Useless Action Bar, Blank start up screen. Non-Intuitive navigation.

Useless Action Bar, Blank start up screen. Non-Intuitive navigation.

A great use of Action bar: Distinctive Branding, proper button placement, and use of SlidingPane.

A great use of Action bar: Distinctive Branding, proper button placement, and use of Navigation Drawer.

You NEVER want your user to land on an empty screen. You want your app to be content-driven; as soon I you enter your app, I should be able to access the content that is most relevant to me.

Now, when you tap the small circle at the bottom left side of the screen, you are presented with a Tumblr-esque array of circles, out of which you can chose an action. This is alright, but it feels out of place in an Android app, and leaves the user feeling like they’ve entered a different world. Instead, we can use the built in Android Navigation Drawer to access different menus and actions.

Screenshot_2013-10-18-09-49-24 Screenshot_2013-10-18-09-49-30

If I click the first option from the circle menu, it sends to me a page. Now, when this page is loading, it actually shows me a “loading” screen. This should not be done, because it detracts from the magical experience  of using your app, and seamlessly connecting to the internet.

This is a BIG no-no.

This is a BIG no-no.

Tapping on another option, I am FORCED into landscape mode, for no apparent reason. NEVER force your users into doing anything. This makes them feel under control: instead, give them a light hint that they would get the best experience in landscape, recommending them to do so.

Loading notification, AND forcing me into landscape...?

Loading notification, AND forcing me into landscape…?

Tablet App?

Finally, there is no Tablet app. There is no excuse NOT to have a native tablet app. A native app always outperforms a web application, in every sense. To add to the frustration, the Embibe web application is not responsive, i.e. it doesn’t change the layout according to the size screen you are viewing on. Thus, whether you’re viewing the site from your 16 inch laptop, or your 4 inch phone, you’ll get the same experience crammed in a small space. Not to mention the performance benefit of a native application.

Screenshot_2013-10-18-10-05-35

In spite of this app’s shortcomings, I can say from experience that this service is a very helpful one – I, too, am studying for Engineering examinations, and I am proud to be part of the Embibe family.

To close, I just want to say thanks to the team at Embibe and Indiavidual learning, for such a great concept. I recommend you check this out, and I hope that this service goes far and helps millions of Indians achieve their goals.

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