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How can I create a card-based design for an Android app that displays questions, in a way that allows the user to focus on one question at a time—without making the cards or the screen look empty?

Context: I am a student software developer building an Android app for a business consultant. This man uses questions to break the ice and get honest communication going between business members. Now I am developing an Android app that allows him and those he works with to view questions one at a time, or in a list.

In "question-display" mode, I'd like for there to be one question on the screen at a time. I'd also like for there to be a neat/intuitive way to move from one question to the other, perhaps by swiping from right to left.

The business owner doesn't know anything about software. He has done work with a graphic designer before, but that graphic designer hasn't worked with Android before. So I'm creating the design. And I don't want to be "that developer" that tries his luck in design and makes something ugly.

This article about the advantages of card-centric design made using a card based design seem like a great approach for this app. Google's card examples in their Material Design Standards seem fairly neat and elegant.

The simplest design that comes to mind is having a card that takes up the whole screen, and displays a single question. This seems too empty. On the other hand, I don't want to fill up the screen with content that would distract the user from the question being displayed. Viewing questions is the purpose of the app.

Possibilities I've considered for other content to place on the card:

  • Image related to theme of question
  • Button / link to consulting business website

I would appreciate any suggestions.

  • I think your missing the purpose of cards. According to androids material design spec cards are intended to be used in collection, when your content would otherwise appears in a list or grid. – Mark Sep 14 '15 at 21:36
  • I wish I knew what the hell a card was ! :) – Fattie Sep 15 '15 at 14:40
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OK, I think you're misunderstanding the concept of cards a little bit, and what you're looking to use is a sheet. See from your link:

A card is a piece of paper with unique related data that serves as an entry point to more detailed information. For example, a card could contain a photo, text, and a link about a single subject.

Cards have a constant width and variable height. The maximum height is limited to the height of the available space on a platform, but it can temporarily expand (for example, to display a comment field). Cards do not flip over to reveal information on the back.

In short: you're missing the variable height attributes and the uniqueness of subjects.

The Basics

Material or not Material, I think you could take a look to how other apps deal with scenarios like your by taking a look at "Getting Input" UI patterns. This way, you can learn by example and know what to do and what to avoid

Let's Go Materialistic!

While the above is more about general application of UX and Ui principles, you seem to have a quite defined idea of what you want. So let's go to some Material samples. From there, I specially suggest you to take a look at these

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As you'll see, all these apps deal with blank space in an aesthetically pleasant way. So don't be scare of blank!

To each its own

Remember a good designer wouldn't have these issues, because they know what to do with these spaces and/or the look of your app. If you feel insecure, I strongly recommend to leave this to a professional designer, specially if the app is important for your client and/or you (for example: do a bad job and you might lose the client).

Furthermore, cards or no cards, it makes no difference. You can see on the samples above none of them use cars (probably because they don't need to!)

  • Thanks for the thorough answer @Devin. I think I understand what you mean- I can solve the problems I described with or without cards. Thank-you for addressing my question. FYI, I was thinking of having a card with a small shadow that takes up most of the screen, and letting the card glide easily to the left or the right with the user's touch. And I was thinking of the previous / next card coming onto the screen as the other card glides away with the user's swipe-away gesture. But whether or not I use cards, your answer helps me understand how to create a neat design with 'extra' space – Timothy Steele Sep 15 '15 at 2:43

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