Mkenya Online – App Review
This Android app with a developer with quite an interesting name (KissDevs) is described as ‘All in one News, Sports, Politics, Events, eCitizen, Landmarks/Map & much more’ in its Play Store depiction. It aims to be your one-stop shop for news, alerts on events and a portal for a number of government web platforms including eCitizen, Kenya ICT, Kenya Foreign Affairs and more. Additionally, the description goes on to say you can see/view/read about attractions, top restaurants and top nightlife spots in Kenya as well.
If you think this is enough to task one app, think again. A couple more features are ‘Kenya National Anthem, tenders and top blogs’. Quite much isn’t it. I tried installing this on a Galaxy Tab A but the Play Store reminds you dutifully that it is designed for phones.
One item of note (and an eventual gripe for you) is that this is an ad-supported app, meaning, be prepared to withstand/endure a persistent little banner at the bottom of the app, constantly showing you choice ads. Enjoy.
The app isn’t hideous. It isn’t a runway model either. It seems to use a dark shade of green and a sprinkling of red as the accent colours, as seen in the logo image. The top bar of the app’s homepage is black with text in white. A constant ‘Mkenya Online’ title sits at the top flanked by the round logo at its left hand side and two (blurry) buttons on the right. Below these are horizontally spaced titles below which is a red underline streak denoting the active tab. Yes, these are tabs. This black (navigation, I guess) bar doesn’t fold up/minimize when you scroll up as Material Design Principles say it should.
Tapping the first (left-most) of the two buttons at the top brings up a light-green popup that says ‘This is a convenience app to assist you access multiple services in one platform’ with a link to ‘Tell a friend’ and another to the KissDevs website. Again, the design is humdrum with the ‘Version 0.8’ text at the very bottom not really aligned well. (And yes, I am kind of obsessed with good app design.) The next button draws up an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for ‘Mkenya Online Feedback’ as the subject states. My issue with this is that it gives no warning/message at all that you are leaving the app to your email client. The placement of these two buttons could be better too, say in an off-page menu/sidebar.
Below this bar is the rest of the content whose background is white. You can navigate between the tabs by scrolling left or right. There are four tabs here. ‘News’, ’Events’, ’Services’ and ‘Map’.
We’re going to tear down this app feature-wise to see if it really meets all those tasks it is piggybacked with.
First things first, we test the ‘News’ capability of the app. This resides in the first tab of the app. The tab is perfectly split into categories: Business, Counties, General, Lifestyle, Politics, Sports and Technology. These categories are in drop-downs. You tap the category title to expand/collapse it to view/hide its content. In each category, there are buttons/tiles showing the various news sources for that category. For example, the Business category shows Ask Kirubi, Business Daily, Capital FM et cetera. Tapping on a news source, ie. The Ask Kirubi tile brings up a page to view a web version of the news source. It is a pretty page, I must say, regardless of the content.
At the top of the page is a black bar with a Back arrow next to the News Source’s title (‘Ask Kirubi’ in this case). To the right, there is a Refresh button that obviously refreshes the site, followed by a Share button and a three-dot Menu button that just shows the Feedback option/function we talked about above. There also is a floating action button (FAB) that switches the fetched page from the desktop version of the site to its mobile version and vice versa.
This functionality is replicated across all the news sources (they are quite a number).
The ‘Events’ tab/section of the app is pretty straight-forward. They are grouped according to dates and tapping on an event listing brings up a page just like the news sources web-view pages, only this time it brings up a web-view of the allevents.in you have a Save button in the top bar. Tapping on the Save button puts it in the Saved Events mini-tab (or is it sub-tab) in the Events tab.
The ‘Services’ tab has two categories: ‘Government & Private Sector’ and ‘Dedicated Blogs’. The Government & Private Sector category consists of Brighter Monday, Career Point, E-Business, eCitizen, E-Visa, Foreign Affairs, Govt. Tenders, Kiss Devs (their website), NSE and so much more. The same goes for the ‘Dedicated Blogs’ section listing the popular Kenyan blogs such as bikozulu.co.ke and Ben Kiruthi’s photography blog. Do note however that MKenya Online just brings up the web-view of the various sites. It doesn’t serve up dedicated portals to these services.
The same goes for the ‘Maps’ tab, bringing up maps of various key locations in the country. This is based on Google Maps. Again this is split into categories including Attractions, Buildings, Hotels, Malls, Night Clubs and Restaurants. It seems, however, that most listed locations, are in Nairobi. The beauty of this is that Google Maps works beautifully everywhere.
Occasionally, the app will give notifications of “New content available”
I have a big issue with the (at times two stacked!) banners at the bottom of the page serving me adverts at the expense of screen real-estate.
There is a torrent of design languages here. The colour options try to stick with green and red for the accents black for the chrome and bars and white for the rest of the app. It is one of the better ones among the Kenyan apps out there but it isn’t the best. There was a garnishing of floating-action-button in some pages but the biggest gripe is that they don’t have control over the design of the web pages they use as content in most of the app.
The tiles across the app load their respective logos at times, then at other times, it loads the default Mkenya
Screen real-estate suffers greatly in landscape mode with the non-collapsibe top navigation bar and the persistent advert banners at the bottom. Also some of the tiles have their titles too low that some portions of them disappear beyond these tiles.
In all, KissDevs did try a lot in creating a good design. It is passable.
There are no real bugs I have run into except for a few (such as the ‘No events!’ text in the main Events tab that comes above the All Events & Saved Events mini-tabs).
User Experience (UX)
It is not very difficult to use, but that’s speaking for myself. A new user will get familiar with the app’s content fairly fast. What it suffers though is the break between native UX strategies (i.e. the chrome surrounding the web-view pages and the home pages) and the web pages it loads as content. For example, there is no distinction in function between the three-dot menu button (which is severely underutilized) and the hamburger buttons in the mobile versions of the websites it loads as content.
The app does what it says it does for the most part. But then again, it is at the mercies of the developers of the various websites it depends on (heavily) for content. Offline usability is a pipe dream.
It is a good app. It strives to do it all in one place. That’s tough. Therefore it trades off a polished user experience and usability for versatility. It is like a Swiss Army knife with blunt/obnoxious tools within. It is good, but it can do better.