iOS has been known to attract enthusiastic users, due to a high level of user experience offered through a mesmerizing user interface, probably a dream come true for many smartphone fanatics. However, for every iOS, there is an equivalent Android fan, who is crazy for Android apps, having more faith in what Android OS has to offer.
There is definitely something about Android, attracting an astounding 80% of the global population. It is not just about the range of free apps Android has to offer. You now see great mobile apps within the Play Store, equipped with top notch interfaces, as well as experiences, giving iOS apps a run for their money.
However, because too many apps are gushing at the same time, and since the Play Store has lenient approval policies, there are high chances for your app to get lost amidst similar others. This makes it even more important for your app to outshine, and outperform their many competitors, unlike iOS wherein only a selected few make it to the App Store, due to a strict approval process.
Whether you are a fully-fledged Android apps designer and developer, or probably working on cross platforms, you need to strictly follow a few tips, in order to be a mobile app UI/UX expert. Following these instructions with conviction will help your app move places.
#1. Focus on becoming a material design expert
By introducing Material Design, Google made it clear that Android app UIs need to deliver an everlasting impact through the UX. The company was confident about the fate of OS, regarding how they look and behave, once Material Design is implemented. The design is a strong answer to developers, living with the dilemma of using flat, or skeuomorphic design.
While flat design demands the removal of unnecessary components from the app design, skeuomorphic design focuses more on giving a virtual 3D reality effect by making use of realistic textures to drop shadows and more. Both have its share of advantages and disadvantages. A flat design might look visually striking because of a minimalist approach, however, lacks the usability factor. While skeuomorphic design, scores high on usability factor, but visually turns out to be more complex and overwhelming to handle.
Material design lies somewhere between the above-discussed counterparts, wherein a user gets an aesthetic feel in terms of appearance, and even performs exceedingly well on the usability parameter. The primary goal of a material design is treating individual elements as space units. Everything, right from text boxes to info boxes, each object seems to have weight, reacts according to the Physics laws, when dragged or stretched. In fact, these objects seem to have inertia when bumping into one another. Every object has a predictable speed, giving a feel of real world residing in your smartphone.
Such a design is aimed towards building apps that are both, prettier, and fulfill the purpose, with which users download them. The best part about Material Design is, it does not confuse users with an overwhelming appearance, through flashy visuals, and gaudy stuff. At the same time, users tend to enjoy every single logical step of using such a design, whether be tapping, clicking, dragging, dropping, resizing, selecting, or more.
#2. Fragmentation is something not to be overlooked
There are a few iOS devices offering fewer iOS versions, when compared with too many different Android devices, with a range of Android OSes, even those other than the stock Android format. Unlike iOS, where people jump onto the newest OS version as soon as it is launched, Android users use all types of Android OSes, whether be Gingerbread, or the latest Marshmallow. On top of it all, there are too many modified Android OSes available in the market today, making it even more difficult for Android developers to target every single modified Android version, in addition to the stock version.
It is a real hard task for Android UI designers to create apps, satisfying all the different Android devices, with different Android specifications. However, there is a way out. It is wise to go for fragmentation, wherein you start picking selected devices, representing a bigger target market. Design a prototype for those selected few highly popular devices, with the best in the class specifications. Figure out the fonts, colors, palettes, and more that works best on such devices.
Once done with that, it is time now to incorporate features and functionalities that work smoothly with such devices. After integrating the relevant things, opt for a responsive approach. Think, which elements or components can automatically adapt to smaller screen sizes or basic Android versions. Will your app respond equally well in terms of appearance and performance, across platforms and devices?
#3. Ensure testing with as many original devices possible
Quality assurance, as well as testing, should be conducted possibly on every single device, covering a major section of the target market. As discussed earlier, there are too many devices, with different Android versions and specs. Covering as many different types can make your app universal across all Android OSes. When opting for fragmentation, your app could work great on higher specs, but could not work for lower specs, and vice versa.
Imagine, your app works wonders on Samsung Galaxy S6 but is a big letdown for S4. Or, an app works well on Samsung phones but does not work the same way on HTC phones. Similarly, an app is just fine on Marshmallow, but struggles on Ice Cream Sandwich, or lower versions. In another case, an app works fine on smartphones but disappoints on tablets. This could keep your app restricted to a specific audience only, which can result in an untimely death of your app.
It could surely be a good deal to use an Android emulator, replicating too many devices at once, saving developers from an expensive process. However, even those emulators, cannot deliver the same kind of feel, as using the original devices. The reason being, it is not just about the app appearance, but also is about the hand gestures performed that is difficult to grasp on emulators.
There is a great hybrid solution for this, wherein an app could be tested on a multitude of devices, without being expensive at the same time. Simply, distribute your app across employees, family, friends, volunteers, using a whole range of devices. Allow them to download your app, test it, and give their individual feedbacks. This will not just save a great deal of time and money, but also allow designers to receive accurate feedbacks on where the app is actually heading towards, enabling the testing process to be easier.
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