NYPL App v. 2.7 for Android (Bad Design)

NYPL Front
NYPL loading screen

When we were given this assignment, I quickly thought of the most annoying flaw on any of my semi-regularly used apps on my Android phone – getting past the home screen on the New York Public Library app. Which I hardly use anymore because I hate it. The website is infinitely more enjoyable for me to use. From the start this app is poorly designed according to many of the principles in Norman’s Design of Everyday Things.

NYPL HomeLooking at the home page, a user would think that the only options are to browse selected categories. There are simply no other indicators on screen. It fails visibility by providing no guidance for a user trying to complete what should be a reasonable task for the app, i.e. searching for a book, finding a local library branch, or interacting with their library account. This creates a gulf of execution – the user cannot formulate a definite plan of a sequence of action to access these capabilities.



Soft key activated menu
Soft key activated menu


So they physically poke around the screen for a few minutes, maybe ineffectually swiping, until discovering that the app, at this stage, also has poor mapping: the left soft key, which ordinarily leads to the basic settings (enabling and disabling notifications, or options for the visual representation of the app, for instance) of apps, brings up the relevant menu. A user would not have any reason to expect that soft key to expose the pictured menu.

I forget this all. the. time.



A user selects the “Search” button, and is immediately taken to a screen that is entirely inconsistent with the initial loading screen (pictured) and the home screen. There is no color or font consistency that assures the user that they are using the same app.

NYPL Search Home

(The search function is usable, concession to NYPL)


NYPL Plus OptionsThe record page of an item (hereinafter referred to as a “book”), however, has a number of issues. In the top right corner there are three buttons. The final one, the plus sign, opens the pictured menu of options to apply to the book. This is fine. However, in another display of failed mapping and cluelessness about soft keys, that menu can only be closed by the “Cancel” option on the list, and not by the “back” soft key an android user would expect. At first it looks like poor feedback, but no matter how many times you hit “back” the menu does not close.


NYPL Community


Also on the book record page, there is “community activity.” There is no visibility, anywhere, in the entire app, for how to add a comment yourself. There isn’t anything that says you can’t leave a comment while using the app. Again, the user experiences the gulf of execution.

Note: The NYPL app has updated for Android since this version, but when I tried to install it a while ago it crashed so much that I had to reinstall this older version. I do hope at least some of these problems were solved in the new version.