Welcome to the first of hopefully many interviews with established designers from around the web. To begin, we had a talk with Jordan Beck, the creator of Press, a Google Reader app for Android which became extremely popular since it launched shortly before Christmas.
Please tell us a bit about yourself
I’m Jordan Beck, developer and co-founder of Twentyfive Squares. And I love to build things. That started at a young age when my father taught me about woodworking, which is still a passion of mine. I went from that to an interest in architecture, but that changed in high school when I took my first programming class. I’ve been hooked from then on.
Since then, I’ve lived in many places and had the opportunity to meet a ton of talented people. They have both inspired and challenged me. During my time in Chicago, I was able to see a blossoming tech scene where amazing things were being created everywhere. That’s also where I started working with my friend and co-founder, Jay Ohms. We both shared a love for technology and decided to see what we could build together. So we built our first app: Press.
Press is arguably one of the most beautiful apps on the market, was this an aim when you began development and did you take any inspiration from other apps?
We definitely wanted to make Press a great looking app from the beginning. There are some great Google Reader apps out there, but nothing fit for us. When building Press, we tried to focus on two main things: simplicity and reading experience. This impacted most of what you see in Press and continues to direct future development.
And ironically, we did take some inspiration from Reeder for iOS. Silvio Rizzi used an amazing amount of tact with Reeder. It brings together functionality that does not impede experience. We didn’t set out to build the Reeder app for Android, but we did take inspiration from how he combines simplicity with functionality to create a great experience. Whenever we add a new feature to Press, we want to make sure that it remains consistent with our focus.
Press is currently an android exclusive. what advantages do you feel android has over the competition in terms of design?
Android as an ecosystem has grown and matured tremendously since the release of Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich. Google has pushed the Holo design guidelines and created a solid design platform to build on top of. That, combined with extras like rich notifications and widgets, allow developers and designers to take their apps outside the traditional boundaries and become more intimately involved with people as they use their devices.
That was a major part of our decision to launch on Android. Also, there is a huge opportunity right now for quality apps in Android. I can’t put it better than Shifty Jelly did in their blog post:
“…there’s a gap in the market right now for small developers like us who are passionate about design to create something a cut above the rest.”
(Definitely read that post if you haven’t already. It’s really good.)
Android has always been criticized for a lack of well designed third-party apps, but that is gradually changing through the help of people like yourself. Focusing completely on design, what would be your top 5 Android apps?
Hmmm, this is a tough one. There are some really well designed apps for Android. Here is five of my favorite (not in any particular order since I’m having trouble ranking them):
Timer – The guys at Opoloo have done an amazing job designing this app.
Google+ – It’s a system app, but it has some really nice design features.
Feedly – Even though it’s a Press competitor, they did a really good job with this app.
Falcon Pro – Well done and it keeps improving.
Pocket – Great reading experience because they pay attention to the details.
One note about all of these apps that is very important to me when talking about design for Android: they all handle different device sizes well, giving you more content for larger screens.
What’s your view on manufacturer-made Android skins. Are you a vanilla-Android guy, or do you like skins like Sense and TouchWiz?
I have always been a stock Android guy. I understand why Google allows it (to some extent), but I’ve never seen a manufacturer’s skin that holds a candle to stock Android. In my opinion, they end up adding things that are unnecessary and ruining the experience.
What does the future hold for Twenty Five Squares, are any future projects or updates to Press planned?
We have a lot planned. Press will be getting a big update in the next few weeks that will add several large new features and some really great changes. Beyond that, there are still a lot of things we want to accomplish with Press including a really nice dark theme, a redesigned phone workflow, and feed management. It’s just a matter of time and priority
We do have several other app ideas that we are hoping to do this year. We just need to get together with our designer, Chad Urbanick, and start the process. He takes our ideas and makes then really slick.
Finally, we’re planning on expanding into some web projects. Not sure exactly what that will look like yet, but we want to continue to keep ourselves well-rounded.