Widgets are one of the great features that Android gives us as app designers and developers. They act as small windows into the content or functionality of an app and since they sit on the phone's home screen, taking up valuable space, they need to be very efficient. They make you think about the core features required to use the app or how best to present the key data that a user will find useful.
Our recent work on the Map My Tracks Android widget made us think about the essence of the app and what users need from their home screen. Map My Tracks is a sport activity tracker. It lets users track their bike rides, runs, walks or any other outdoor activity. For this app it made sense that the widget gives users control over starting their tracking session.
The Map My Tracks Android widget acts as a remote control to the main app. It lets users do three things. Start, pause and stop tracking their activity. That's it. By using the widget people can bypass several taps and start an activity direct from their home screen in just one tap.
The simplicity of these three actions undermine the complexity of the widget but from a user's perspective this simplicity is the key to its success.