Android offers an outstanding platform for mobile design and goes a long way in creating an effective app that offers a brilliant experience across numerous devices of diverse combinations of aspect ratio, pixel density and screen size. The diversity of Android throws a number of challenges to the designer and here we bring to you some crucial guidelines in terms of pixels, user experience, layouts, styles and themes that need to be considered for creation of successful Android apps.
An app’s perceived quality is largely dependent on the visual design, which also enhances the usability. Most of the developers are well-versed with the UI patterns, but only a handful has the requisite visual design skills. You need to concentrate on the following in order to deliver an experience that is aesthetically pleasing.
* Nice Scaling: The Android platform comes with diverse screen densities, with no definite resolutions for targeting but a measurement format for layouts widgets and graphics that is somewhat density independent. So, it is always advisable to optimize the graphics for a varying range of screen densities. Make sure to test the designs across low-end devices and optimize resources that do not scale well.* State Friendly: Significant confirmations of selections and clicks are provided by the touch states. During customization of the widgets like buttons, the creation of drawables with respect to all required states such as disabled, pressed, focused and default is crucial. The size is also a significant factor. Touch targets should usually be minimum 45 density pixels in height and width.* Use Fonts: Roboto and Droid Sans are the two major fonts of Android. However, any fonts can be roped in for an application in TTF format.* Utilize 9-patch Drawables: These facilitate stretching and scaling of PNGs in a pre-defined manner. Markings alongside the top-left edge outline the stretchable regions. Optionally, the padded content region can be defined through markings alongside the bottom-right edgings. 9-patches are crucial for creation and customization of UI widgets.User Experience
As is the case with any other platform, Android app development has conventions and patterns. These help in formation of expectations regarding the behavior of an unfamiliar app.
* Design of User Flows: Android apps contain a set of screens, at the basic level. Navigation within the stacks is possible with the help of buttons, list items and action bar icons. There is also the up affordance which facilitates the navigation along the information hierarchy. It is good to try user flows with prospective users through mock-ups or wireframes and iterate. Ideally, prototypes on real devices should be leveraged because the same facilitates testing within realistic mobile environments.* Use of UI patterns: UI patterns should be considered as tools rather than constraints, because they provide recognizable hints regarding interaction and navigation, maintaining platform consistency. Some of the common Android patterns are the action bar, the dashboard pattern, the workspaces pattern and the ribbon menu. These are the most effective tools for carving out app navigation and layouts.* Design Responsively: With varying screen areas, Android is somewhat similar to responsive web design, wherein rendering support to each screen is the target. You can avoid premature optimization through focusing on popular devices and target users. The ideal option is to target middle sized popular phones and then go for requisite optimization with user flows and alternate layouts for specifically small tablets and devices.* Comprehension of Mobile Interactions: Users interact with mobile apps in a different manner than with websites or PC software. In case of mobile apps, most interactions utilize touch input and are often capable of measuring in seconds.* Optimization of First Use: Installation of apps often is a response to real world problems. So, it is always wise to render a feel of the experience. You can also think of launching a tutorial with the app.Layouts, Themes and Styles
Let us now discuss some of the best practices for crafting performance-oriented and maintainable layouts. The commonly used layouts are Linear Layout and Relative Layout, and sometimes Grid Layout.
* Automation with framework: The Android framework makes room for automated resource switching revolving around the folder structure. This implies that there is the possibility of having distinct graphic layouts and assets for diverse screen sizes as well as densities.* Extraction of values: Keeping the layout XML free from dimensions and colors is a good practice. You can separately define them and reference in the layouts, thereby enhancing the visual consistency and ensuring that things are easy to change at a later stage. Extraction of these values facilitates dimension switching across diverse platform versions, orientations and screen sizes.* Use of themes and styles: An effective means to ensure a maintainable XML layout is to segregate the positioning concern from the styling concern. Every Layout View is required to possess a height and a width attribute. Sets of attributes that recur can be moved to styles whereas widget styles that universally occur across the app may be moved to the theme.* Optimization: The merge and include XML tags facilitate the dropping of reusable sections of UI into the layouts, thereby minimizing duplicate XML as identical set of views appear in manifold layout configurations. Lint is a comparatively new addition for Android Developer Tools, which creates warnings regarding potential performance optimizations after scanning the project resources.* Debugging: The Hierarchy Viewer tool makes it convenient to spot bugs through inspection of an app’s layout tree.Hope you are now acquainted with the major tools and techniques pertaining to Android mobile design. Remember that the most effective apps rely a lot on clean visual design and platform consistency.
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Guidelines for Android Mobile Design