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Slack's new app just fixed problems with both Android 10 and curved screens

Slack
Slack (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

It's no secret that people have frustrations with Android 10's gesture navigation, particularly the back gesture — and phones with curved screen edges have only exacerbated the problem. Apps that rely on slide-in drawers can be really tough to use, and when that's a core part of the interface it can slow you down dramatically.

But this week, I received a much-needed ray of hope for this system in the form of an app update. Slack, which previously had one of the worst collisions with gestures and curved screens, has redesigned its app to address both — and it's a wonderful change that every Android app developer needs to study and implement.

Android 10's gestures don't have to be frustrating — we just need fresh app designs.

Slack used to, like many apps, rely on a slide-in drawer for switching contexts inside the app. In the case of Slack, it was to change between channels, groups, threads and messages — something you do several (or dozens of) times each app session. With Android 10 gestures enabled, this required a precise angled edge swipe to pull in the drawer rather than generate a back gesture. But Slack was particularly frustrating because every view you ever had in the app also vertically scrolled. So you couldn't swipe horizontally in from the side, which triggers a back gesture, and you also couldn't swipe too vertically, which gets picked up by the interface as a vertical scroll. You had to perfectly hit the right 45-degree angle to use the slide-in drawer — and, well, it was basically impossible.

It was so bad on some phones that Slack ended up being really annoying to use. The OnePlus 8 Pro is a perfect example — because of its sharply-curved sides and large size, it was legitimately impossible to open the slide-in drawer with a gesture one-handed. In order to use Slack on my 8 Pro, I had to use two hands so I could tap the top-left corner of the interface to open the drawer. And considering how often you need to switch between channels in slack, this was a massive pain.

Then, my frustration was completely alleviated. After getting over the initial 3-minute shock of "everything is different and I hate it!" when the new Slack design arrived, I knew it had hit on something amazing.

Source: Android Central

The app switched to a simple horizontal three-pane view: the primary pane is a list of channels and chats, on the left is your different Slack workspaces, and on the right is your current channel or chat. Critically, you swipe across the middle of the screen to move between the three panes — never from the edge, and never at an angle or vertically. So you can switch contexts without using a gesture that can interfere with another one — whether it's system-level or app-level.

Slack's interface would work perfectly for just about any messaging or vertically-scrolling app.

It works beautifully. And it's something that more Android developers need to consider for their own apps. The Android Developers team has a lot of good documentation on various ways to handle gesture conflicts, because there's obviously no one-size-fits-all solution. But Slack's is so simple and elegant, with no overlap or advanced learning curve, that it could easily be deployed in any sort of messaging platform or something that relies on vertically scrolling information panes.

Of course I had never thought about this as a solution, but then again I'm not in any position to redesign Android apps; I can just amplify examples of great design. Slack was able to figure it out, and I hope that many other apps do — because there are still tons of situations in which I'm unable to use an app because I also use Android's gesture navigation, and that should never be the case.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

9 Comments
  • Nifty idea. I'm left handed so I mostly was a use the back button on the right and also use the pull from right side of screen to go back. My texting app I use (Pulse) basically only allows the gesture from the right side of the screen for back to work and any swipe from the left doesn't go back but pulls the menu out for view. Slack's new way seems to work well but for something like a texting app where swipe left can do one thing and swipe right can do something else this isn't going to work.
  • Steal, no. Emulate, imitate, copy, reproduce, mimic, mirror, echo, follow, all yes. Also, unless you are writing for AP following their Style Book, every style guide you will read says em dash should not have a space left and right. Thus, being as this is not the AP leave out the em dash spaces.
  • You may be surprised to know that we have our own style guide. It's a nice thing about having a website — you can choose how you want to write on it, even if that means not following another established style guide.
  • Please no. Slack's new UI constantly kicks you out of your conversation when closing and relaunching the app. In additions, there's a lot more wasted space by using panes instead of fly-overs. This new UI is simply to fix the issues that Google has in its own gestures in Android. Google should not have broken Android, and Slack should not have to make their app worse in order to fix Google's errors.
  • Haven't noticed Slack kicking me out of conversations. Maybe in the old version ... it would sometimes "reload" a lot of the app, sending you back to the main channel after bouts of inactivity. But you're experiencing this in the new version?
  • Yes. Every time the app is closed or killed in the background (I use a budget Moto G7 because I can't afford a flagship and it's good enough for everything else), I lose where I was in my conversation, and often have my DMs closed. Old versions of the app didn't have this problem (prior to the big UI upgrade), and Slack has no interest in fixing these and the many other problems that plague their app (at least that's the impression I get from the emails I've had with their customer support). I've actually started using email more for internal communications instead of Slack since it just works.
  • Just stop making curved glass phones.
  • It seems an easy solution would be to use a different style of gesture navigation. OnePlus' method is the best and easiest to use if you ask me. Swipe up from the bottom for home, swipe up from the bottom and hold for 2 seconds for app switching, and swipe up from the bottom left or right for the back gesture. Very easy to use and doesn't interfere with any apps I use.
  • Ya it was a great app.
    I used on my desktop than i start using it on mobile phone.
    Really help me to use any where. Jack
    sysbunny dot com