Movies by Flixster has a very interesting design history. The developers behind this app are usually among the first to adopt new Android design guidelines—they had a Honeycomb-style action bar back when the Xoom was the only Android tablet around—and today it got another new refresh. The good news is that now it looks better on the Nexus 7, as opposed to the broken mess it was before. Now, for the bad news.

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It doesn't look very good. Not that it looks bad, mind you. But if you were worried that you'd just be using a bunch of giant phone apps with your shiny new Nexus, Flixster isn't going to do much to put you at ease. Don't get us wrong. The app is perfectly serviceable. You can still find showtimes, movie descriptions, reviews, and directions to theaters nearby. It just doesn't feel like a very efficient use of space. Which is a downer since Flixster was one of the first to show us what Android tablets could be. Now, though, take a look at Flixster compared to the IMDb app on a Nexus 7:

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The IMDb app uses navigation buttons as part of the Action Bar, whereas Flixster rather bizarrely removed those elements. As you can see in the earlier screenshots, the Home, Box Office, etc. tabs have been moved from the actual Action Bar to a second navigation bar just below it. This leaves one of two functions in the action bar: Search, and either Share or Settings, depending on where you are in the app. If you're on a movie page, that navigation bar disappears entirely.

The IMDb app has a few other layout advantages. The Flixster app, for example, has a ton of extra whitespace. Whereas, IMDb includes the movie title, year, genre, ratings, a brief synopsis, options to watch the trailer or add to a watchlist, check showtimes and even search for the movie on Amazon before getting halfway down the page. Everything beneath that point, by the way, is scrollable. You can't tell from the screenshots, but it's a multi-pane layout in a single-column design. Which lends itself well to the landscape mode, which we'll get to later.

Meanwhile, on Flixster, most of the same information in IMDb's first panel is spread among nearly the entire page. It's simply an inefficient layout. The problem is, this column of information is designed to either be part of a phone UI, or a single panel in a multi-pane layout. This worked great on 10" Android tablets. Unfortunately, the pane-based layout didn't work quite so well when compressed to a seven-inch display:

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Disclaimer: This shot was taken on the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, though the layout looked identical on a Nexus 7.

While it didn't look too horrible here, it was a cramped layout. Also, take a look at the Action Bar. First, it requires horizontal scrolling, which is a huge no-no for navigation bars. Second, the names of the different sections are cut off. To be fair, this layout was designed for the original Xoom (and looked fantastic on that device, even in portrait mode), but it required an update. Unfortunately, the giant-phone approach isn't that much better. Particularly in landscape mode. Here's another IMDb comparison:

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Okay, let's be fair: using a Nexus 7—or any other 7" tablet for that matter—in landscape mode is not a common use case. For the sake of completeness, however, one might expect a developer that has shown some aptitude for keeping up with UI trends to at least consider the idea. Here, however, Flixster has all but abandoned landscape mode, leaving over half the screen entirely empty. Meanwhile, the IMDb app has a multi-pane layout that's still scrollable. Kind of cramped, admittedly, but hey, if that's your preference, go for it.

It's tempting to look at Flixster's new app and say "It's fine." And it is! In fact, it does its job plenty well! However, with Matias Duarte running around telling people that developers need to start considering dynamic UI designs that look great on all types of devices, and IMDb providing an excellent example of how to do that (at least until you touch anything and get those annoying pop-ups for everything), it's difficult to say this new layout is designed for the Nexus 7. It's simply made to not be obviously broken on the Nexus 7.

Still, you'll probably enjoy it a bit more now than you did before. If you don't already have Flixster, grab it from the widget below.

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • http://photo.katzmatt.com Matt Katzenberger

    Thank the maker it doesn't look like that on a 10 inch tablet.

    This relates to my biggest fear with the nexus 7. All the tech blogs are calling it the first Android tablet worth getting, but because of the 7 inch screen I'm terrified a lot of devs will think that they should design for 7 inches instead of 10, and apps that desperately need a better tablet layout (like Facebook and Twitter) won't get one because they work ok on 7 inches in portrait.

  • mesmorino

    I'm pretty sure that using a 7in tablet in landscape mode is a common use case: Using it in portrait mode would basically devolve into the giant phone experience. Most media consumption devices are designed to be used primarily in landscape mode, from laptop screens to tvs, to portable media players. Stores don't even display tablets in portrait mode, simply because you can't see as much (and they also tend to look like giant phones). Tablets in portrait mode are completely counter-intuitive (to me anyway).

    I want to watch a video on my phone, I turn it sideways. I want to take a picture, I turn it sideways. I want to watch youtube, I turn it sideways. Half the games I have default to landscape. In fact, stuff to do with the phone (texting/calling) are about the only things that are actually easier in portrait mode

    • villagrana65

      Flixster is kind of wired,,, very temper mental when playing my ultraviolet copies with xoom2.. my wife Ipad doesn't have that same problem..
      I seem to get a lot of video not compatible problems,, oh well

    • northstar17

      I have a Nexus 7 and use it mostly in portrait, as its easier to use one handed that way. Most people I see using iPads use it in portrait also unless in a game I guess. I dont know anyone that plays games though.

  • http://twitter.com/SchatzieBerg Kris Anderson

    Eric, just curious. What is it about the pop ups on the sub pages of IMDb that you find annoying?

  • http://www.facebook.com/snaketator Charles Gunter

    What do I do when I can't watch my movies because it says streaming isn't supported because of a security issue do to my tablet being rooted.
    My tabet is brand new it isn't rooted. What do I do.