10 Tips For Android UI DesignHere are 10 tips to improve your new mobile application prior to launch, maximizing your potential andminimizing your frustration due to bad reviews and low download counts.1. First launch experienceGood websites and mobile apps have quite some similarities. Both need to connect to the user or visitorinstantly. If they fail, the next best alternative is just a couple of clicks away. Most users will not wastetheir time trying to figure out how to use your app or read a complicated manual. They will simply moveon.At first launch, everybody will have the same three questions on their mind: 1. Where am I? 2. What can I do here? 3. What can I do further?Try to answer these questions instantly. If you can convince your user that this is the right app for them inthe first couple of seconds, they will surely dive deeper.2. Every input is valuableThink for a moment about how you really use your mobile device: a developer’s phone is safely sitting inits dock on a plain table, connected to a PC with a large keyboard, probably with full backlight turnedon. Now think about how everybody else is using their smartphone: walking over a crowded street with acup of coffee in one hand and his shaking device in the other, trying to figure out how their favorite teamplayed, between the last meeting and the next one.Most of the time people just have one (big) thumb to navigate through your app. Forget about multitouchand similar complex input methods – scroll, flip and touch are your friends. Let people navigate fromscreen to screen and information to information quickly, without the need to stretch their arms first. Andlet them get there quick. Every input counts.
10 Tips For Android UI Design3. ContrastWhile your development environment might be a big, beautiful screen in a nicely shaded room, the placewhere your users use your app might not be. We need to use our mobile devices more frequently in brightsunlight than we would like to. This has a big influence on how we view the screen and how the interfaceshould be designed. Details get lost, colors can’t be distinguished from one another. Some elementscompletely vanish due to the reflections.This does not mean that you have to design only in black and white and throw out every beautiful detailof your UI design. It just means that important elements should have enough contrast to be recognized assuch under more stressed conditions. If you want to color code elements, add a fallback option like simpletext labels. And if you want to improve your app’s appearance with small details and bits of information,that’s fine. Just make sure that your UI even works without those.Give your interface a clear hierarchy by displaying the most valuable features largely and brightly.Remove anything unimportant completely from your app.4. Don’t let them waitNobody wants to wait, especially in a mobile world. We carry our devices on the train, answer a quickmail on the bus, or check the weather while walking out of the house. We do all these small things on thego, to gain a little bit of more free time for the things we really like to do. Don’t let people wait for yourapp to do a certain thing. Improve the performance of your app and tweak the UI to get to relevant resultsfaster.Certainly everybody will understand that there are tasks that require some heavy performance from yourapp or some large packages of data that need to be pulled from the web. But never let your users wait foranything to happen. Let them feel that something is working in the background. Add “selected” and“pressed” states to your buttons, add spinners for short loading times and progress bars to longer ones.But never, never, never confront a user with a black screen.Waiting is always annoying. At least let your users know how long they will have to wait.5. Don’t forget the landscapeSometimes you just forget that your mobile Android Device has more than one basic phone orientation.While most people are comfortable with their apps working only in portrait mode, some really prefer touse their device in landscape mode, especially the ones with physical keyboards. This group of user willprobably grow with the widespread adoption of Android tablets.Don’t make the mistake of thinking of the landscape orientation as a wider view of your lists. Using thedevice in landscape mode is a totally different user experience. Now you have two thumbs to interact withthe screen. Typing is much easier and you mostly tend to read from left to right, not top to bottom. In fact,if your app is heavy on reading and writing you absolutely need to support a good landscape mode.
10 Tips For Android UI DesignLandscape orientation can also feature a totally different experience to the users. You can use the widerlayout to display information in a completely alternative way. For example buttons could be moved to aside that were previously sitting at the top of the screen. Maps, charts and graphs can display new piecesof information when shown on a wider scale.6. App EcosystemWhile you can design the most unique and special app that might serve a lot of different purposes, it willalways be just one step in a chain of actions.Think about what your smartphone can do out of the box: phone calls, contacts, texting, mails, browser,taking photos and videos, GPS and maps – the list goes on. Use this as an advantage. You don’t have tocreate all these building blocks on your own. Users are familiar with the standard toolset- don’t try toreinvent the wheel. At the same time this will also spare you a lot of coding work.Here’s a very short but very common chain of action: Get a call that invites you to a certain location.Check the time. Check the weather. Head out, searching the place with Google Maps. Check in withFoursquare. So where does your app tie in the workflow here?No user will ever use his mobile device just for your application alone. But if you manage to create agreat piece of software, they will incorporate it into their mobile workflow on a daily basis. Give themeasy access to further features like sharing or looking up interesting information on the web, and let themjump fluidly between your app and other7) Stick to the guidelinesWhile you want to create an unique app, that stands out, you don’t want every piece of your app to betotally special. Google suggests a lot of guidelines for Android App design and development. Get familiarwith the guidelines. People have a much harder time to dive into the complexity of a modern smartphonethan you think. Don’t make it even harder for them by implementing custom interaction elements all over.Learning to work with an Android device need a user to get comfortable with touching, typing, swiping,shaking and even pressing hardware buttons from time to time. They need to recognise patterns like inputfields, select boxes, modal dialogs and long presses for contextual menus. Do you really want to throwmore at them?Go with simple, straight forward lists. Start your app with a dashboard consisting of big icons for themain functions. Add a header that provides access to the most common feature and let users go back tothe start when they get lost. If you can’t improve these metaphors dramatically, don’t change them.People will value consistency within your app and the whole operating system.Study Google’s interfaces and decisions carefully. Get familiar with the whole experience, and try tocreate your app with Android’s guidelines in mind. But don’t take this literally – If you can improvecertain elements, and you are absolutely sure about that – then for God’s sake, do it!
10 Tips For Android UI Design8)Make your app uniqueThere are more than 500,000 apps on the Android Market. You might ask yourself how to stand outbetween all the quite similar offerings. If you set out to build the next boring Sudoku game in black andwhite or the next note-taking-app based on the official code example, you will have a hard time gettingsome decent download numbers.Don’t assume that there’s no room for another great app that is already covered in one way or another.People always prefer different things. There is no Jack of all trades. Some prefer a note-taking-app thatcan do almost everything. Some need just a simple text editor with syncing capabilities. And there areothers that just want a clean UI.Either way you go, build an app with character. All basic features are already covered by the OS and thecore apps. Stand out by creating something that users will prefer to use over the built-in solutions. Thinkof your app as a small robot living inside your smartphone. It communicates with you, tells youinteresting things and helps you with your daily tasks. Do you want your robot to be smart andprofessional, or cute and lovely, maybe even cheeky and funny?Keep that in mind when building a great app from the ground up. People with character enjoy apps that fittheir personality. Want to build a photosharing app? Add a paparazzi like theme to it, with badges to earn.Another location service? Strip it down to the most basic features and automate everything. Take aproblem with an already well known solution. Now think about, how a slight change of perspective couldchange the whole application and how users work with it.9)testingLet’s face it – all users are different. You can try as hard as you want to, you’ll never satisfy everybody.Even trying to get your App right for the majority of people is very hard.Don’t get me wrong here. This is no excuse to ship your app without considering the different approachesof how people will use the app. You need different people to test-run your app and iron out at least themost annoying problems and bugs. Big companies spend thousands of dollars on usability experts, thattest hundreds of different users in very expensive labs to get their software right.While this is a great way to improve any app’s UI, it is hardly affordable for most independent and smalldevelopers. Don’t let this be an excuse, either. You can do some very cheap and swift guerrilla testing, tomassively improve your app and make it more accessible to a larger userbase.Grab your developer device with the app’s prototype, spend some money on small gifts like buttons orstickers, and head out. Start with colleagues and friends, and progress to strangers you never saw before.Most people will gladly spend a little time with something brand new, as long as you are polite and evenprovide a small reward for their time.Let them use your app like you intended to, and watch carefully. Tell them what their goal is, but provideas little help as possible. But don’t let them get stuck either. You’ll figure out your apps pitfalls andbottlenecks in no time.
10 Tips For Android UI Design10. Publishing to the MarketWell, you did it. You’ve built your first app. Congratulations. It feels great, doesn’t it?Now don’t make the mistakes many do. Sure, you want to get the app out to the masses and hear whatthey are saying about it. But taking a couple of last steps will give you a much better first launch.You’re sure you did some proper testing? Different devices, hdpi, mdpi and ldpi? Alright. Let’s take careof the small things.Google wants you to upload your app to the Market with 4 additional assets: A description of your application’s features The app’s icon in high resolution A small promotional banner that will be displayed on the Android Market And another larger “features” graphic that will go alongside your app on the web-version of the market.Don’t make the mistake and underestimate one of these additional assets. A well written introduction toyour great app coupled with some clean and well designed graphics can make the difference to all yourother 500 contenders on the Market. Users will notice the extra mile you took, transcending over to thelevel of detail and care you put into your application.If creating some nice and clean graphics or writing some lines of good copy isn’t really your cup of tea,ask a designer and/or writer. The extra money should be well worth your apps success, and it should takeonly a couple of hours.