A set of Android user interface guides, released by Mutual Mobile, seeks to create standards for a platform where “official” standards don’t exist.
The company’s Android Design Guidelines, first released in March, contained tables and charts that depict the differences in screen sizes between Android versions and explain how that affects design. It also included an explanation of how the user interface changes with the size of various handheld devices. Version 1.1 of the guidelines, which came out in late April, added coverage of the Honeycomb version of Android, which runs only on large-screen tables.
The guidelines include screenshots comparing versions of different, well-known applications (like Facebook) in both Android and Apple’s iOS, which allow designers to see that although certain features, like tab bars, seem essential to Android design, they aren’t always required.
The guidelines follow the whole process of designing an application and all of its elements, including pop-up windows, colors, fonts and list views, through screenshots, so designers can have examples in front of them during the development process.
Tony Hillerson, software architect at Effective UI, said the Android Design Guidelines allow designers to understand the differences in operating system iterations and hardware in terms of how that affects the UI.
“I think there’s a balance to strike. Android is open, and that means developers have to deal with different carriers and different handsets,” he said, adding that the design guidelines showed that Mutual Mobile “can afford to talk about an elephant in the room, while the official guidelines can’t. A lot of new Android designers approach Android apps as a port of an iPhone app. There is some good advice and discussion to that point.”
Adam Beckley, lead visual designer at Mutual Mobile, compiled the information on developing for Android on the Web and surveyed designers at Mutual Mobile in order to determine this list of best practices. These guidelines are a living document and will change as Google announces new Android OS iterations, he said.
“The Android developer site guidelines are not for designers; there are many things, like naming conventions, that are unique to Android and not necessarily intuitive for designers,” Beckley said. He added that each individual device also has specific nuances, which have been described in the guidelines.
The Android open-source project, run by Google, offers its own set of user interface guidelines.