I had always thought of KeepScore as a fairly simple app. Functional, yes. But beautiful? Meh.
It’s a counting app. Counting apps only have to do one thing right, and that’s count. This is not brain surgery, people. Just keep it simple, and you’re already 95% of the way there.
A few weeks ago, though, I decided to make KeepScore my guinea pig for trying out some new design elements from the “Holo” theme, introduced in Android 3.0. At the same time, I also added some fit-and-finish features that were sorely needed, giving the app a much more coherent feel.
The result is KeepScore version 1.2, probably the biggest update I’ve ever written for the app. It looks and functions so differently now, I feel like I barely recognize my own app.
What I like most about this update, though, is that it adds a fresh coat of paint without subtracting anything from the usability. In fact, I think KeepScore is actually much easier to use than it was before, to the point where I feel a little embarrassed for having bragged about it in previous posts.
New home screen
The new home screen is a design I’ve been wanting to do for awhile. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the old and new looks:
Out with the old, in with the new.
The new design basically takes the “Load Game” screen and transplants it onto the welcome screen. I find it’s a huge improvement. There was a ton of wasted space with the old design, and plus it took two clicks to get to your saved games. Now everything the user needs is front and center, without sacrificing any usability or app branding.
I also wanted to make sure that the new design wasn’t so cluttered that it would confuse first-time users. Their experience is still pretty streamlined: there’s a big “New Game” button the size of a barn that you can’t possibly miss.
Big gray squares. Your thumb is drawn to them.
The new home screen also makes use of the “Action Bar” paradigm, which was introduced in Android 3.0 and back-ported thanks to the wonderful Action Bar Sherlock library.
The in-game view
In-game, not a whole lot has changed. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? All I added was a very small graphical flourish:
Never change, KeepScore. Never change.
Did ya miss it? The last score in the score history now has a “fade-out” gradient, to indicate that the list has been cut off at the bottom.
This is to solve a common problem I heard from users, which is that they could never remember whether the list was ordered top-down or bottom-up. Hell, I kept forgetting myself! So hopefully this subtle change will make that clearer.
This is something I struggled with for a long time. In early versions of KeepScore, I had a “Reset” button, which prompted the user with “Overwrite game or start new game with same players?” Knowing that users don’t read anything, though, I was unsatisfied with this dialog.
The old, confusing dialog.
In later versions, I replaced it with “Reset” and “Copy Game”:
“Reset” and “Copy Game” buttons.
Now I’ve combined them both into “Rematch”:
New “Rematch” button.
What I realized about “Reset” and “Copy Game” is that they’re an inelegant solution to a common problem. 99% of the time, if you’re still using the app after the game is over, it’s because you want to start a new game with the same players. However, I didn’t want users to overwrite their old scores, because then they’d lose all their history from the previous game. Hence the option of copying the game before resetting it.
“Rematch” captures this concept much more succinctly than “Copy Game” and “Reset.” And plus, it makes it more difficult for users to shoot themselves in the foot, i.e. by overwriting their scores.
Unfortunately I can’t take the credit for this idea. I borrowed it from Rounds, which is a pretty slick round-based score keeper that was actually originally built on KeepScore’s source code. When I saw the “Rematch” button in that app, I slapped myself on the forehead and wondered how I’d never thought of it.
This is a pretty nifty new feature. In the previous versions, I had an “Add Player” button and a “Shuffle” button, but there was no way to manually reorder players or delete players.
Every day I’m shuffling, and adding, players.
Now all of that is handled in a separate “Edit Players” screen, which makes it a breeze to change players mid-game. You can even touch and drag to get the order exactly right.
Clearly, Storm Eagle should go after Mega Man.
This screen also makes it easier to change players’ names. Previously, the only way to do that was to long-press on a player’s name, which is kind of low on discoverability. But hopefully the button with the pencil icon is a lot easier to figure out.
A tip of my hat goes to Carl Bauer for the drag-and-drop list implementation.
One occasionally-requested feature was a line chart to show the players’ scores over time. Well, ask and ye shall receive:
Fact: nerds love data. And gamers are all nerds.
Players’ scores are on the Y axis, rounds on the X axis. It’s probably useless for any non-round-based game, but kind of neat nonetheless.
I realize the history chart is probably the most unpolished out of the new visual features I added. The colors are pretty bland, and it’s all very MS Paint-esque, because Android has no native graphing library, so I had to whip this up from scratch. But I’m not too concerned, since most people don’t bother going into the History anyway. And for those that do, I think it’s a nice little feature.
Other new features
Besides all the UI changes, I also added some new functionality:
- Backup/restore. Back up your games to an XML file on USB storage, and load them later. Duplicates are handled automatically based on unique game IDs.
- Undo/redo. Self-explanatory. Any action in-game can be undone or redone, i.e. scores subtracted, scores added, etc.
- Better German translations. Germany is the Mecca of modern-day board gaming, so this has got to be worth something. The app is already available in French and Japanese.
- Dropped support for pre-Eclair devices. Android 1.5 and 1.6 only account for 0.5% of the user base, and the new backup/restore feature required some XML libraries from Eclair. Sorry, Cupcake and Donut! You were delicious while you lasted.
So there you have it. KeepScore v1.2 has a fresh new look, a better UI, and it’s still free and open-source. So go grab it from the Google Play Store!