Android Mobile Design Practices (Part 1)
Android is an attractive platform for developers, but not all designers share the same enthusiasm. Making an app look great and feel great across many hundreds of devices with all the different combinations of screen size, pixel density and aspect ratio is not easy. Android’s diversity creates plenty of challenges, but creating apps to run on an entire ecosystem of devices can also be rewarding.
In Part 1 of this this article, we will list a set of practical tips and design considerations for you to create Android apps. We will also include something useful whether you’re crafting pixel-perfect graphic assets, trying to find an optimal user flow, or just getting your hands dirty developing XML layouts.
Visual design is immensely important in the perceived quality of an app. It could even improve usability. Developers have some exposure to UI patterns, but finding developers who have visual design skills are rare. Delivering high-fidelity mock-ups, graphic assets like drawable resources, and guidance to developers is the ultimate way to deliver an aesthetically pleasing experience to end users.
Android is a platform of many screen densities. There’s no set of resolutions to target, but rather a density independent measurement scheme for graphics, widgets and even layouts.
It’s not always practical to hand optimize graphic assets for every density. The platform can scale resources down relatively well. However, it’s always worth testing designs on a low-end device and optimizing resources that don’t scale properly.
BE STATE FRIENDLY
Touch states provide an important confirmation of clicks and selections. When you customize widgets such as buttons, it’s important to create drawables for each necessary state (such as default, disabled, focused and pressed). The focused state is essential user feedback on devices supporting directional pad or trackball navigation.
Size is also important. Touch input is not precise and fingers can occlude the UI as they interact with the screen. Touch targets should be at least 45 density pixels in width and height.
Android has two fonts, Droid Sans and Roboto. Roboto was released in Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich). It has been compared to Helvetica, but it’s slightly more condensed, which is fine for small screens. You are not limited, however, to Roboto or Droid Sans. Any font can be packaged within an app in TTF format, although with some memory overhead.
9-patch drawables will allow PNGs to stretch and scale very nicely in predefined ways. Markings along the top and left edges will define the stretchable areas. The padded content area can also be optionally defined with markings along the bottom and right edges. 9-patches are essential to create and customize UI widgets.
It is possible to create 9-patches manually, but the Android SDK comes with a very nice, simple tool called Draw 9-patch. This makes it quick and easy for you to convert a regular PNG into a 9-patch. That highlights the stretchable area, and then displays previews of the resulting drawable with various widths and heights.
Android 3 (Honeycomb) and Ice Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) modernized Android’s visual design with the Holo theme. However, a few device manufacturers have a poor reputation keeping platform versions up-to-date. As a matter of fact, some of today’s most popular devices will probably never be upgraded.
So what can be done? There are two options available. One is to deliver the current look, feel and experience to all devices. The second option is to use a separate set of widgets, styles or drawables for Gingerbread and below. Both approaches will work. If depends on if you users would prefer modern or comfortably familiar?
SHOWCASE THE BRAND
Sometimes clients fear that sticking to a recognized UI design pattern will make their apps less distinctive. The opposite is probably true. While patterns like the action bar become ubiquitous, they can fade into the background. Users will spend less time wondering how to use an app and more time appreciating just how elegantly your app wound up solving their problem. The experience is much more valuable for the brand than a simple one-of-a-kind UI just for the sake of differentiation.
Branding can be expressed through the design of icons, drawables or widgets, in addition to the choice of colors and fonts. Subtle customization of the standard platform widgets can also achieve a nice balance of brand values and platform consistency.
The best way to get a feel for Android is by using it every day. Even the most satisfying app designs will have a few things in common. In Part 2 of our article, we will examineAndroid high fidelity mock ups and other features of the Android OS.
Author Bio: She is suzy spring. She is a blogger. She likes to make a difference in her career so now she is working for KeyDifference. Interested in SEO services, Website designing, Android Apps, Technology.
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