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Delivering beautiful UI on Android: Interview with Kevin Jung, Instagram

Kevin Jung is a Software Engineer for Android at Instagram, one of the world’s leaders in gorgeous UI. He will be giving the final keynote on Day 1 of Droid World at Appsworld North America.

Kevin, what will you be discussing at Droid World?

People often associate Android apps with less charming user interfaces. Yet with the correct set of frameworks and UI performance optimisations, one can create user experiences that are both aesthetically pleasing and high performance. I’ll talk about the immersive video viewer on Instagram as an example to demonstrate how Android apps can look and feel just as great (if not better) than their iOS counterparts.

What’s your professional background? How did you launch yourself into the world of Android?

I studied Computer Science at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Throughout my university years, I went through six internships! I worked on software for mobile enterprise security, risk analysis for financial derivatives, revenue analytics at Facebook, and logging infrastructure for Instagram.

After graduating last April, I returned to Instagram to work full-time and I’ve been working on the Android app since then.My experience with Android actually began some time before my graduation, when I decided to build an Android app with a couple friends that would allow people to draw multiple frames of sketches to compose a story in a comic-like format and share this story with others by a single feed. While it began as a learning project, I had a lot of fun working on the app and eventually decided to pursue Android development when I went back to Instagram.

 You will be speaking at Apps World North America on creating a beautiful and functional UI. Instagram has carved a powerful presence on the world stage because of its UI merging so seamlessly with the UX. What are the key checkpoints involved in evolving to this stage?

Among the many processes involved in building high quality and performant UI (design, development, etc), I'll focus on the iteration process that allows us to continually improve the user experience by measuring impact of changes and incorporating user feedback. A good user interface is rarely built on the first try - it takes many iterations of polishes and improvements to make sure it is used correctly and as intended by users. By doing both quantitative (e.g. A/B tests) and qualitative research (e.g. surveys, UX research sessions with real users) on each design iteration and analyzing their results, better choices can be made for the next iteration and the process just becomes a continuous loop. The user interface naturally evolves with these iterations and becomes much better in both looks and performance over time.

 What’s on the horizon for Android in 2016 that you’re excited about?

I’m excited to check out the Instant Run feature of Android Studio 2.0 that launched recently. It allows you to push certain code changes to your app without having to recompile or reinstall it, which means the updates will be reflected almost instantaneously. With respect to building UI, this will save tons of time in testing various design changes. Especially small tweaks like changing the spacing between UI elements, their colors, etc will no longer require you to recompile, reinstall, and restart the app which could take many seconds or even minutes each time depending on the size of your APK. I can’t wait to try it for myself as I build some apps on the side for fun.

How often do you post your own photos on Instagram? Is it a pre-requisite as an employee to have an active Instagram feed of selfies? Do you find yourself using ‘hashtag’ a lot in conversation?

Thankfully it’s not a pre-requisite to post selfies when working at Instagram. I occasionally do put up photos of myself…but I like posting about beautiful scenes and good food more :)

Surprisingly I actually do say ’hashtag <something>’ from time to time in real life conversations, but mostly in some special moment or occasion with friends that calls for the ’hashtag’ notation. Feel free to follow me at @kjung92; no shame in promoting my own Insta!

Catch Kevin on May 11 at Appsworld North America. Register now to enter the exhibition free or get a premium delegate pass to access content featuring leading disruptors and innovators from across the apps ecosystem.


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