The Challenges of Android UI Design

Android FragmentationAndroid device fragmentation makes developing and testing more challenging, but it also apparently effects how visually appealing Android apps are. According to “prevailing conventional wisdom” among developers, it is easier to make a “highly polished, elegant-looking app” for iOS – and the major reason is simply Android fragmentation. Wired talked to UI/UX designers and app developers from Hipmunk and Karma to find out why iOS apps generally look better than their Android counterparts. From Wired:

When coding for iOS, developers deal with a very limited number of screen resolutions and hardware profiles. But when coding for Android, developers have to resolve a virtually limitless set of device parameters.

“Android devices come in different shapes and sizes, different screen resolutions, different device speeds — and that’s actually a huge hurdle,” Karma app co-founder Lee Linden told Wired. “You need to be testing out something like 20 different phones with different resolutions and different processors, and that definitely makes development slower.”

Campos said an accent like a simple one-pixel stroke may look terrific on Android devices with a high resolution, “then we pull out a handful of older devices and it just looks bad.” In these situations, the developer has to rethink the design element and account for different cases in the app’s code.

Another example: For images, Hipmunk generates its Android assets at three resolutions: 1x for older devices, 2x for high-resolution devices, and an awkward 1.5x resolution for other devices — a necessity to avoid “weird artifacting,” as Campos puts it. But some developers may skip this high level of support for outlier devices, leading to blurry, jaggy visuals for an unlucky few.

Indeed, mobile development must move at lightning speed by necessity, and app teams are often small and strapped for cash. If excessive time is spent perfecting a simple design element, it means less time will be devoted to innovating in other ways. As a result, Android app developers often settle on a less-detailed aesthetic.

Read more at Wired >>>

Though it may be more difficult to produce flawlessly beautiful apps across Android, it’s not impossible. Functional testing and usability testing are big parts of the whole process (since that’s when you notice when something is or isn’t working correctly). As Wired points out later in the article, Android is making a concerted effort to help developers by offering design classes and producing better documentation. So dig into the Android-provided information and check out uTest’s 8 Tips for Android App Testing whitepaper to help you along the way. Remember, fragmentation can pose challenges, but the harder you work the more fulfilling the reward.

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