Android Design Crash Course
So you want to launch an Android app but all you know is iOS? Follow these simple tips for the best chance of success:
Having just launched my first Android app (as both the Product Manager/Owner, and Lead Designer), I can offer these tips:
No matter who you get as your QA, Developer, Designer, etc, force everyone on the entire delivery team to switch to Android as their main phone. There is no other way you can understand the subtle differences and advantages the platform has to offer. Get them all set up with number porting or Google Voice redirects so it is the only phone they carry around, and enforce it through the v1 launch at least.
Have each person get a different TYPE of Android phone. There are so many kinds of Android devices that its tough to get the experience right for all. Everyone having a different Android will turn your entire team into a QA and you will catch alot more discrepancies. Go for the most popular phones/tablets.
Put out a call across your company for volunteers that already have Android phones (and might not be on this delivery team) and they can test too. We pay them with gift cards. Or, because of the flexibility of Android, you could run an official beta testers program for anyone out there that is interested. Strava does this well and they call it their “Early Access” program: http://engineering.strava.com/attention-android-users-3-0-early-access-is-available
Do not bother with anything before AndroidOS v4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). I came to this conclusion for several reasons:
- The OS was so clunky before then that just about any app had little chance at being good let alone delightful.
- The phones are older and hardware is lacking (especially memory)
- Ice Cream Sandwich was the first version to have native built-in screenshotting ability (the way that Apple had in since the iPhone1). This seems trivial but screenshots are the best way to communicate what you mean when it comes to those little details that have a big impact on the overall app.
- By the time you launch, prior OS version and devices will be even less relevant, given the typical 2-year phone contracts people have. Come October 2013, ICS will have been out for 2 years and people will be getting shiny new (mostly) free Androids.
Handy guide for keeping the OS version numbers and names straight: http://qr.ae/TjHsf
Do not directly port your iPhone app over to Android unless you like ticking off alot of Android users. All graphical assets need to be re-designed, and many flows will need to be as well. But then you get to take advantage of each platform’s advantages.
Over-invest in your app icon. It’s the personal doormat to your app and people take great pride in looking at a nice icon — it’s almost like a personal gem they keep and cherish (if you do it right). Do not re-use your iOS icon with its nice rounded rectangle look. Design a similar one, but FOR the Android platform. In short, that means transparent background and as unique of a silhouette as possible (jagged edges form your shape). More info at http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/ui_guidelines/icon_design_launcher.html and http://developer.android.com/design/style/iconography.html Seems easy but so many companies get this wrong and unknowingly become the laughing stock of Android users everywhere. (http://media.tumblr.com/d39f4dab5c32f32468def861fb2dfdc3/tumblr_inline_mq41ee9udM1qz4rgp.png)
For example, note the icon differences in the 2 apps I launched. The same but different. :) https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/intuit-tax-online-accountant/id482817063?mt=8 and https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.intuit.accountant.online.tax The screenshots there give you a feel for how different the designs are too (this app is for accountants).