How to get started in Android App Design

In this article I’d like to go through some very basic design topics for Android platform. Aside from a wealth of information provided by Google there are very few resources of high quality that can give you a high-level view of designing Android mobile applications. Hopefully this article will come up handy and it will be easier for you to understand some of the nuances of Android user interface design.

Despite my unwillingness to write about this topic, it should be discussed. Being designers, from time to time we do have to deal with a certain already existing scope of work including design elements and visuals. In our case we talk about standard Android UI design elements which, to put it mildly, don’t look sexy at all. While designing for Android, a big number of designers get lost for they can’t really think of a proper way to make existing elements look nicer. However, they can be done in a way that is elegant.

Working with Android user interface it can get difficult to resist the notion of re-using an iPhone user interface, designing for the sake of the brand. But how right is that? What is the answer? What do you need to design for: the brand or the device? As a matter of fact, the answer can be two-fold.

If you deal with games, for example, it makes sense to reuse the same user interface template for iPhone and Android platforms. But the same approach wouldn’t work for utilities. You should be able to find the way to balance your brand and the way your platform looks like. Here I’d like to draw an example of Dropbox app. It successfully maintains the brand and native platform in a very elegant manner.

The distinguishing thing of Android platform is that it can be run on numerous devices. Well, that is a bad thing too, unfortunately. However, being designers, we should be able to derive benefits from this because this factor is only going to get better as more devices appear on a market. Here, I’d give a recommendation: never use fixed-width layouts. Always think of “fluid layouts”. They should be flexible enough to be stretched on the screen or on the entire width of the browser.

If you’ve been interested in this topic and searched for some information in Google, for example, you’ve probably come across some materials that teach you how to support multiple screen sizes. The term “density of independent pixel” shouldn’t scare you off. Everything it means is that the conversion between pixels and DP won’t be the same across all screen sizes and resolutions you use. Thus, if you create a graphic that fits perfectly on 480×800 screen, it will look differently on a 240×400 screen.