Better Mobile Dictionary

Biscuit for Android and iOS (2013)

Biscuit is a multi-platform and cloud-based dictionary made by South Korean startup company Croquis, where I worked as a lead designer for about two years. Biscuit started as a small side project. Our basic purpose was to make a better dictionary app for ourselves, because we were all South Koreans who frequently used dictionary apps to read English articles.

We made Biscuit with the aim of creating a better dictionary that fits the mobile environment. While other dictionary apps focused on their content, we focused on the experience. Learning a new foreign language is not easy, and memorising vocabulary words is the most basic part of it, yet it's a difficult and time-consuming task. We believed there was a better way of solving this problem.

Reducing the steps

Mobile OSs have improved recently, but when we started this project, checking the meaning of a word in a smartphone dictionary was a really painful process. Moreover, it always required more unnecessary effort to learn the vocabulary words later. Biscuit astonishingly reduces these painful steps using the notification center on iOS and making a definition popup for Android. When Biscuit is running in the background, the user can copy the word to check its definition and hear its pronunciation instantly.

  • 1.  Copy the word
  • 2.  Leave your browser
  • 3.  Open a dictionary app
  • 4.  Paste the word
  • 5.  Check the definition
  • 6.  Go back to the browser
  • 7.  Find where you left off
  • 1.  Copy the word
  • 2.  Check the definition

This simple idea made this app useful enough, but that's not the best part of it. Biscuit saves every searched word on a cloud server, so users can access their word list from many different devices.

Designing the logo

After we had chosen the name Biscuit from among many candidates, I started to design a logo for it. I wanted it to be simple, clear, and geometric.

< Designing Biscuit Logo >

The Apple logo was the obvious reference, but there was an unexpected problem, which is the fact that different cultures have different ideas of the shape of a biscuit. Eventually, I decided it should be square rather than circular because a square shape better fits our app and I wanted to make a logo-shaped business card later.

Gestural interface

Clear app's simple gestural interface did affect many other mobile apps, and Biscuit is certainly the one of them. Actually, a dictionary and flashcard app like Biscuit has a lot in common with to-do types of apps. If a task on the to-do list represents something that has to be done, a word on the word list represents something that has to be memorised.

A single row of the list is also a flashcard, so users can either swipe it to mark or delete a word or tap it to see the definition on the backside of the card. I think this combination of a swipe-able list and flashcards made Biscuit's simple and seamless UI possible.

Same app on different OS's

I'm a big fan of iPhone, but I use an Android phone, and that is because of Biscuit. Let me tell you why. Although I had designed more than five Android apps, by the time I got to design Biscuit, I wasn't comfortable with designing for Android because I always just converted from the iPhone app design. I wanted to take a different approach this time, so I bought the Android phone HTC One to fully understand the OS, and I think it really helped me design a better Android app.

< Biscuit iOS and Android Apps >

Actually, my purpose wasn't to design totally different apps for each OS. I wanted to maintain a certain standard of quality in terms of the user experience, regardless of the difference between OS's. The app should allow users to achieve their goal by the same amount of effort, in any device. Therefore, it was reasonable to maintain the core part as similarly as possible, while the structure of the app should be similar to each OS's interface that the users are already comfortable with.

Designers tend to design products for themselves, and they usually have more powerful gadgets than average users. Therefore, I think it's a nice experience to get out of my comfort zone and use devices or softwares I'm not familiar with.

Evernote Accelerator

Biscuit won a bronze prize in Evernote Devcup 2013, which gave our team the opportunity to join the first Evernote Accelerator in that same year. We went to San Francisco and worked in the Evernote HQ, along with the amazing people at Evernote, for a month.

< Evernote Accelerator 2013 >

Each week, we heard from great guest speakers such as Eric Migicovsky, Jason Calcanis, and Guy Kawasaki. Moreover, we were given the opportunity to pitch our product at Sequoia Capital. I learned much from that one month, met great people, and made amazing friends from all over the world.