Android App design is a particular challenge if you are making an Android App as a side project. For one thing, you don’t have a lot of time to painstakingly craft a pixel perfect design. On the other hand, you probably have a limited budget to spend on design. The bulk of your budget is probably best invested in getting a decent icon for your App. All that being said, you can stand out from the crowd of Apps that never go beyond the default style by investing some time and effort into the design of your App.
The rest of this article will discuss ways to apply the 80/20 rule to your App design. In other words how, to get a good looking App with the least amount of time and money spent. (Note: this article is part of a series about making Android Apps as a side project. Click here to read the introduction.)
Key Features of Android App Design
It isn’t the most recent news, but Google went a long way towards helping developers when they required all devices shipping 4.0 and above to include the Holo system theme. Google has more recently released the material theme. You can leverage these system themes to speed the production of your App.
The Action Bar provides a consistent and distinctive Android user experience. By following the Action Bar design pattern you can provide a discoverable interface to users. Help meet their expectations by making common actions accessible from the Action Bar.
The Action Bar not only provides a common pattern for interacting with your App, it is also a key element of the visual design. Notice also in the screen shot that the App icon is featured on the Action Bar. Have I mentioned that the App icon is an important part of the design of your App?
You can get a lot of value by using stock icons. I have been using a pack of stock icons from Icon Shock for my Android Apps. Its hard to beat $29.99 for what amounts to all the icons you will ever need for your App. The screen shot above shows stock icons displayed in the Action Bar.
Let’s take a closer look at the default buttons as compared to gradient buttons.
Why use plain grey buttons in your App when it is so easy to add some visual impact with colorful gradient buttons? You can search for examples of how to style Android buttons. That is how I found this excellent tutorial on gradient buttons for Android. (Using a progress bar? Don’t forget to style it to match your buttons by following this tutorial.) Green gradient buttons are shown in the screen shot above. Which one will look more inviting to touch on an Android device?
Last but not least, add some style to your text. You’ll probably end up doing this anyway. If you do nothing, the default text on Android can be hard to read. Just like the buttons on Android, the text is styled via XML with the size specified in scalable point (SP) units.
You can create a useful App with an appealing design without breaking the bank by leveraging system themes and design patterns, using stock icons and adding some style to your buttons and text.