Android UI

November 4, 2010

Google really needs to focus on their Android UI guidelines.

When the Twitter for Android app was released earlier this year it was pitched as the new blueprint for Android UI.
There even was a really good session on the design and principles at Google IO in May.

 There were a lot of interest in the QuickAction bar, and it was generally thought to be the new ‘official’ way of having contextual actions on list items.

The QuickAction is gone in the new Twitter for Android update. As I understand, the development of the app was started as a collaboration between Twitter and Google, but has since moved inhouse at Twitter, which might account for the change. Twitter wants to align functionality and UI to the wildly popular Twitter for Iphone app.

Twitter is entitled to change their app to best suit their needs, of course, but this, however, highlights the glaring lack of hard and fast UI guidelines for Android. Google would argue that this is one of the draws of Android over IPhone;  You are not bound to doing things the ‘Android’ way, you can let your imagination run free.
This is all well and good except that everyone invents their own UIs.

As a developer, your default Android app will look like crap until you spend a *lot* of work on styling and theming it, whereas the default IPhone app looks beautiful, or at least professional,  from the get-go.

The result of this is that people design for the IPhone and then port it more or less succesfully to Android. This trend can be seen throughout the Andriod Market.
A case in point is the upwards swipe in the new Twitter app. This was introduced on the IPhone as a way to mitigate the fact that you could not have the app update automatically in the background, but seems unintutive and unnessecary in an Android context. However, there it is.

I hope Gingerbread or Honeycomb will rectify this and not just give us a new skin on the components, but supply some higher level abstractions or defaults which will give Android its own distinct style. And an obvious way to use it (the much lauded QuickAction bar was not in the SDK for Froyo, but left to individual developers to implement).

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