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Android launches design portal for app developers

Friday, 13 January 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Google’s Android platform has launched a portal titled Android Design, a guide that outlines best user interface practices for app developers.

 

While Android’s OS updates have improved significantly – namely with the launch of Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich – third-party apps are still considered an issue by developers.

 

In a bid to rectify this, the Design Android portal includes sections on general style guidelines, design patterns and “building blocks” that are part of Android’s default UI.

 

The guide also has an emphasis on UI elements introduced with Android 4.0.

 

“Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) marks a major milestone for Android design,” the website says.

 

“We touched nearly every pixel of the system as we expanded the new design approaches introduced in Honeycomb tablets to all types of mobile devices.”

 

“We introduced a new font… designed for high-resolution displays. Other big changes include framework-level action bars on phones, and support for new phones without physical buttons.”

 

“We focused the design work with three overarching goals for our core apps and the system at large.”

 

The Android guide’s goals are:

 

Enchant me:

 

  • Consider including a beautiful surface, a carefully-placed animation or a well-timed sound effect.
  • Allow people to directly touch and manipulate objects in your app. It reduces the cognitive effort needed to perform a task while making it more emotionally satisfying.
  • Provide sensible, beautiful defaults, but also consider fun, optional customisations that don’t hinder primary tasks.
  • Learn people’s preferences over time. Rather than asking them to make the same choices over and over, place previous choices within easy reach.

 

Simplify my life:

 

  • Use short phrases with simple words. People are likely to skip sentences if they’re too long.
  • Consider using pictures to explain ideas. They get people’s attention and can be much more efficient than words.
  • Take your best guess and act rather than asking first. Too many choices and decisions make people unhappy. Just in case you get it wrong, allow for “undo”.
  • Break tasks and information into small, digestible chunks. Hide options that aren’t essential at the moment, and teach people as they go.
  • Give people confidence that they know their way around. Make places in your app look distinct and use transitions to show relationships among screens. Provide feedback on tasks in progress.
  • Save what people took time to create and let them access it from anywhere. Remember settings, personal touches, and creations across phones, tablets and computers.
  • Help people discern functional differences by making them visually distinct rather than subtle. Avoid modes, which are places that look similar but act differently on the same input.
  • Like a good personal assistant, shield people from unimportant minutiae. Unless it’s critical and time-sensitive, an interruption can be taxing and frustrating.

Make me amazing:

 

  • Make your app easier to learn by leveraging visual patterns and muscle memory from other Android apps. For example, the swipe gesture may be a good navigational shortcut.

 

  • Be gentle in how you prompt people to make corrections. If something goes wrong, give clear recovery instructions but spare them the technical details. If you can fix it behind the scenes, even better.

 

  • Break complex tasks into smaller steps that can be easily accomplished. Give feedback on actions, even if it’s just a subtle glow.
  • Make novices feel like experts by enabling them to do things they never thought they could. For example, shortcuts that combine multiple photo effects can make amateur photographs look amazing in only a few steps.
  • Decide what’s most important in your app and make it easy to find and fast to use, like the shutter button in a camera or the pause button in a music player.