The interface for writing and sending messages in the chat app has been on my mind lately due to the addition of Google Magic Compose (very busy) and the redesign Apple is doing in iOS 17 (very simple).
The Text Message field at the bottom of an SMS/MMS conversation in the Google app contains a smiley face that opens the emoji, GIF, and sticker picker, as well as a microphone icon that you press to record a voice message.
Next to the field, there’s a plus button that opens a grid of things you can send: gallery, GIFs, stickers, files, location, contacts, and schedule sending. Finally, there’s a dedicated gallery button that lets you quickly browse through recent photos and quickly take a snapshot.
I’d say this Google Messages UI is good, but the upcoming addition of Magic Compose to the right of the gallery makes it very cluttered. Messages icon with glitter to analyze previous messages and create a reply or pencil with glitter once you enter a message you want to add crowd things.
Before Google started rolling out the beta widely, Magic Compose appeared to the left of the smiley icon in the text field. This seemed less crowded to me and kept along that bean unchanged.
It’s not quite as simple as removing an icon, as each action is important to a certain group of users, but some make better candidates than others:
- send voice messages Very important to some people. So much so that Google Messages is planning a big redesign that gives it a whole pane interface that’s more personalized where you don’t have to hold down the button like we’ve enabled here. It looks very nice and we hope it will be released soon.
- the Custom gallery It cannot be removed because sending pictures is a very important shortcut and has recently been redesigned.
- While people have other ways to access it on their keyboard, the Smiley abbreviation Emoji/GIFs/Stickers should see very high usage, though I’d argue that’s what could be removed to make room for magic writing. In the case of Gboard, there is a similar button to the left of the space bar or the ability to place a shortcut in the suggestions toolbar.
- the “plus” button It’s something I don’t personally use, but it’s the best way for Messages to show you all the stuff you can send. It’s a must-have educational UI, though Google could increase the size of the gallery into a general media section for files, location, and contacts where selecting images is still the primary focus.
One interesting comparison is The upcoming iOS 17 redesign for iMessage. The current Messages UI in iOS 16 features the text field with a voice dictation icon on the right, while you launch the camera from the left and can open a row of iMessage apps next to it. This shows key actions like browsing your gallery, sending voice messages, Memoji, stickers, and many other third-party expression features.
People don’t like that the gallery is hidden there, but I would argue that it’s a pretty compact UI. Unfortunately, it won’t work on Android because the Gboard suggestion bar will clash and result in two carousels one on top of the other for another cluttered UI.
With iOS 17, Apple is ditching the Camera and Apps icon for a single “plus” sign that opens a scrollable, full-screen user interface. First-party actions appear first in the list: camera, photos, stickers, reviews, audio, and location. Swiping up brings up third-party actions with such an interface that looks terrible from a one-handed usability and usability standpoint.
Designing the user interface for such a default app is by no means an easy task. Apple goes very minimal and takes many steps to get to basic functionality, while Google Messages is a bit more utilitarian and Internet surfers a bit more visually cluttered.
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