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Aug 16, 2011

Designing Android Apps

Supporting multiple platform


As mobile development matures in the market, its becoming ever more important to support various platforms. In our research, we found there are very a little resources with a focus on good design. In this article, we will discuss a high-level view of designing good Android apps.

Standard Android UI Elements

Once we've been tasked the assignment to design an Android UI, it's important to get familiar with the standard set of UI provided by Google. There are a few great downloadable asset to help you put together comps, mock-ups and prototypes.

Android UI Design Patternsandroid

Once your team has decided on a feature set, it's important to put together a formal specifications document outlining the requirements of the app. Once you and your team have a solid idea of what the app will do, it's time to get familiar with Android design patterns.

As a good head start, its common practice to search the Market Place for competitor apps. Most designers would agree, Android has too many apps that are not up to par with good design. Good UI/X design can be achieved when utilizing guidelines. In the Android-verse, there are common patterns used for navigation, overflowing data, and contextual menus. Lately, its becoming ever popular to follow these guides. A great place to start learning is over at the Android UI Patterns blog.

Android has no quality control.

Designing a good Android apps requires understanding the target user. How quickly can they get their task done? What can we simplify to enrich the user experience? These questions should be asked to avoid badly designed Android apps. Understanding and applying basic principals of design will ensure your app won't fall under the "ugly" category. Great balance, unity and simplicity is the key to a great UI design.

Android UI VS iPhone UI

To an individual who has only used one platform, both platforms could be seen to have similarities. Most dual platform users users will tell you, they're completely different from each other. Below we've listed the two most recognizable differences.

iOs vs Android
  • Navigation
    • iOS
      • Tab bar navigation are at the bottom of the screen.
      • Back button are usually at the top.
    • Android:
      • Common apps utilized a tab menu at the top of the screen.
      • Back buttons are actual physical buttons on the device.
    • Screen Resolution
      • iOS:
        • 1X, 2X and iPad
      • Android:
        • Low, Medium, High, Extra High density

    Android Tools for Designers

    Once your familiar with Android design patterns, its time to put together your ideas on screen. If your designing an app that will support multiple platforms, its important to layout wireframes of both interfaces. Your target user should be able pick up the app on both platforms and see very little difference in content. It's important to keep content the same, but you can change the layout. The Evernote app has done an amazing job at doing just this. Once you have your wireframes and comps are designed and approved, there are are several tools available to help you begin the build out process.

    hip android
    • DroidDraw - User interface editor
    • Draw 9-patch - Slice images for multi-res scaling
    • Android Emulator - Test app without mobile device
    • DDMS - Take screenshots

    Android VS iOS

    In our next articles, we will put together a series of post that will show differences between iOS and Android apps. This will help point out the major differences and trends we're seeing in mobile app development. As a designer, its important to stay up-to-date with apps UI and design. It will help you better understand use-cases, UI patterns and hopefully help you design a killer interface for your app!


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