Jan 12 AT 7:53 PM Alberto Vildosola 62 Comments

Google’s new Android Design website aims to beautify third-party apps


It’s a pretty well-known fact that some Android apps out there lack a bit in the “pretty and easy-to-use” department. More often than not, these apps have well-designed counterparts on other platforms like iOS and Windows Phone. As a result, Android has always been thought of as the ugly duckling of the mobile OS family.

However, that might start to change soon. Google just announced Android Design, a website with the sole goal of helping developers make their apps look great. The site has a great deal of information on how to integrate apps with Ice Cream Sandwich, how to use all the new UI elements included in the latest version of Android, and overall tips and guidelines to keep in mind when you’re building apps. If you’re an Android developer, you should definitely check it out.

This launch is just one of the latest moves made by Google in an ongoing war against some of the biggest issues hurting the Android platform right now: fragmentation and unattractiveness to the average consumer. The company started to fight these problems with Honeycomb — and more so with Ice Cream Sandwich — but the G-Team is nowhere near done. In fact, just a few days ago we found out that the Holo Theme available on Android 4.0 is included on every device that has access to the Android Market. That plus today’s announcement make it pretty obvious that Google is quite serious about getting rid of the “ugly duckling” tag.

As it is usual with Android, these UI guidelines are not enforced in any shape or form. Developers can still go their own separate way if they choose to — for better or for worse. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google decides to highlight those apps that stick to the official UI guidelines, while penalizing those apps that don’t.

Source: Android Developers Blog

Alberto is a college student living somewhere between Miami, Sarasota and the World Wide Web. Although a former iPhone owner, Alberto is now a proud Android enthusiast. You can follow Alberto on Twitter and Google+ for his thoughts unworthy of an article.

    Most Tweeted This Week

  • Tamar

    All I want to know is how to get that awesome wallpaper.

    • zerosix
    • ranwanimator

      How big do you want it? I’ll make one for you.

      • THE STIG

        One that will fit great in portrait mode in my gs2 800×480, I would like to use it as the lockscreen wallpaper.

      • MoSDeeb

        Could you also make one for the Galaxy Nexus please

      • iamXiV92a

        I’ll take one for the Skyrocket!

    • ranwanimator
      • ranwanimator

        For other sizes please do a bit of research to find out what your native WP size is. I don’t mind resizing, but I don’t want to have to hunt down resolutions. You can send me a message via twitter at the same account name.

        • zerosix

          Native WP size is H by 2*W.
          1050*960, 960*854, 960*800, 640*480.
          That is for phones, don’t know about tablets.

  • http://www.brokemanstech.com Juan

    I wish I knew how to develop apps let alone make them pretty :(

    • korntoff

      What the f- Then learn to write code! It’s not hard.

      • Andy_jr

        Actually, writing quality code takes quite a bit of practice. ;^)

        But, to the OP, the development software is free to download, and there are lots of free tutorials and reference material on the web, so you can get started with simple apps pretty easily.

  • YMS123

    I’m just wondering how long it takes for some idiot to follow the link and go all over the Internet posting “is this the Nexus Tablet? “

  • Anthony Massingham

    This is absolutely beautiful, and such a wonderful addition on google’s behalf. It’s been a long long time coming.
    Makes me excited to be honest, and I want to get back to developing Android apps once again.

    • Jon Garrett

      I wish I knew how to “get back to developing” lol, great ideas but no skills. making you could do some you tube instructional videos–you would get tons of hits and make a few bucks from ad impressions.

      • delinear

        There are lots of resources on the developer.android.com site already, including video tutorials etc. It’s a great place to start, try following their basic “Hello World” tutorial and see how that goes, it should give you a place to start.

    • lancaster09

      Does this mean that we will see apps on older OS’s look like ICS apps or will they have two different themes based on the OS your running? I am really excited about some rules with creativity!!!

    • Jeff Pan

      Exactly. Great move by Google. Slowly but steadily they are tacking issues with Android(or the ones Apple fanboys point out)

      This move for sure is gonna bring huge change in the ways apps looks in Android. Already the new “Market” app looks insanely good compared to the previous version.

      I am pretty sure if developers apply themselves they can produce better looking apps on Android then on iOS

      I am impressed with the “Scrollable Tabs” Building block !!

    • ags29

      My favorite part is http://developer.android.com/design/patterns/pure-android.html

      It basically pokes fun at iOS compared to Android 4.0

  • http://youtube.com/user/jawckamoe Marcus

    I visited their page. I love the idea, and I hope a lot of developers visit the page and follow the steps to make their apps better. I’m glad Google has taken this step forward!

  • Billy

    Yeah … there are some pretty rough apps out there. I hope this aids developers in sprucing up their designs.

  • thekaz

    it’s about freakin’ time…

  • spazby

    Very nice

  • jsweetser2

    Another reason to love Google. Support Support Support. Google almost never fails to help their products and communities achieve the highest level possible. Google is like a great coach giving the players the tools they need to score over and over again.

    Kudos again, Google.

  • Oscar Ortega

    im not a developer, but i read the whole guideline. it gives you some nice tips even if your not a developer.

  • aranea

    Although I think GB on my atrix looks good glad to hear that Google is supporting Android at all fronts.

  • Trinhbo

    Long overdue but still a welcome sight. I really hope Google continues to take steps to improve the overall quality of the Android apps. Education is a good first step.

  • droilfade

    I hope this will help us see some consistency from app developers as well as manufacturers to get a more “Googly” experience :)

    • OutofPlace

      +1 for using “Googly” in a sentence.

  • cwjones4

    Glad to see google finally take the lead and try to push developers to improve their Apps. I would love to see more polished tablet specific Apps, hopefully that is only one of the improvements to come from this undertaking.

    • OutofPlace

      I agree 100%. I hope that from this process comes a way for phone apps to be ported or reconfigured to tablet more gracefully. I think, unfortunately, the solution is somewhat windows based. There is really no need for many of the apps that I use on my tablet to occupy the entire screen. Some of them are more about what they do than what they show (ex: TuneIn Radio). There really is no reason that it needs to take over the entire screen to be navigated.

  • FlexPuke

    Who else is using Chrome on Windows 7? Every time I try to load http://developer.android.com/design/style/iconography.html , it crashes my computer.

    • Cyberdan3

      Works fine for me….

    • vgergo

      Funny, it has also crashed my system. Slowes the system to a crawl and I could hardly reboot the system. Firefox loaded the page without a hitch, also the same version chrome (16.0.912.75) on my laptop opens it without problems…

      Must be some plugin problem…

  • classic_hero

    I always wanted to develop something but never had time, maybe ill check this out

  • jamal adam

    Matias Duarte is the man!!

  • Dr.Carpy

    I agree with jsweeter2, in why I love the Google Community. You can be as involved as much or as little as you want. Unlike the other platforms where there is a litany of rules, Google keeps things up to the user. Thanks Google for not being too full of yourselves to not admit things needed to improve. A level of standards is welcome and necessary.

  • http://k-selezneva.blogspot.com/ KatSelezneva

    The site itself looks great and is very useful. It is a real guide for developing Android applications. I wish I could develop apps just to use this site! A dessert for developers: Some Ice Cream Sandwich, please! http://k-selezneva.blogspot.com/2011/10/dessert-for-developers-some-ice-cream.html

  • lokidokie

    This is genius! Google have really sat down and figured out exactly what is holding it back…
    And then they’ve done something about it!!!!!

  • Samar

    Will this reduce or increase Android Fragmentation ?

  • chris

    how can i download holo in the android market? i searched it but don’t know what I’m looking for

  • pechano

    The biggest design issue? No search and menu buttons. This opens up for all sorts of weird design and placement choices. Having back, home, menu and search as software/hardware buttons that are always there makes it so much easier. Having to search every app for these options take away space and is confusing. Buttons in apps, which could have been on the phone, is stupid and something I always found irritating about iOS. The way Google is heading with Android worries me to be honest. We don’t want to have an OS thats like iOS, thats why we chose Android in the first place. The Galaxy Nexus is a sweet phone, no doubt, but the new software buttons are just utterly useless. My greatest wish is for customizable software buttons through a rooted ROM, or even in stock, so that the screen can be used for actual content instead of trial and error button searching. When CM9 is finished and available for Galaxy Nexus I might consider buying it. For now I am holding on to my Desire (with 4 hardware buttons!) tightly.
    I love Android so don’t hate me. But this is my honest opinion about the way the design is heading. It makes sense for Google to have this design page, it really does, but reducing four functional buttons to three was not a good choice. The recent apps is essentially useless, as you could always just hold down the home button. Sure its pretty and you can close apps, but who cares, it is not functional compared to search and menu. Especially menu. Having search and “options” buttons in an app is a waste of screen space.

    • PGrGr

      This is just naive. I have a Galaxy Nexus and I have never had any difficulty locating the software buttons in any app. If you really have difficulty in finding the software buttons, it says more about you than about the software. They are standardised icons.

      I can understand that someone might have a preference for hardware or software buttons, but to claim that this is “the biggest design issue” is just blowing it out of all proportion.

      • Dikembe

        Actually, I tend to agree with him. it may not bea big deal, but a consistently located “more features” button is one of the features I would like to see kept. that said, ics solves the “is there something there” issue and continues to support an auto-hidden menu button. developers can still take advantage of it as far as i know.

      • John Walker

        I have a Galaxy Nexus too, and one of the things I miss about my old phone is the search button. I used it quite a bit and now I can’t. I’m still trying to get used to reaching for the top of my phone to hit search on the homescreen and also the contacts app. I know you can root the phone and get the search button back but right now I just don’t want to root.

  • mustybooks

    Great idea. I’m sure this will go a long way to helping devs who are design impaired

  • Shawn Clark

    This is why i like the G-Team…They listen to their customers, help their developers, and always finding ways to stay in the game…Go G-Team!!

  • http://twitter.com/simontaghioff caffeinedependent

    Speaking as UI designer, this is long overdue.

    Apple has had these kinds of guidelines since Day 1 for iOS. What they give you is a shortcut to designing apps which look and function in a way that’s consistent with the platform and other apps. These sorts of guidelines also go a long way to making sure that the resulting apps are genuinely more usable as they explain the reasons for their choices.

    The impact Matias Duarte has had in such a short time is phenomenal; for the first time there is recognition within Google that getting Android’s visual presentation and usability right is as important as technical innovation.

  • Derek

    This is greatly needed. My first experience with Android was when I bought the OG Droid the day it was released. I hated it because the apps were ugly and terrible compared to the iOS apps on my iPhone 2G. So I returned it immediately.

    How many others have had this kind of experience? I now have a Captivate and the level of polish on android apps is getting much better.

  • cristian cristiandonose

    Verry good move Google. It is hard to find some beautifull apps this days.

  • http://www.jdotreach.com Joshua Reach

    As a designer, this gives me warm fuzzies inside. Bravo Google for pushing the importance if good design!

  • Alex Belko

    wow I read all the pages, its really pleasant to see how clever and beautiful android have become.

    • DroidPower

      just imagine what it’ll be like in the next six months, with the fast pace of the developer community!

  • JonnyUtah

    On that home page of the Android Design site, anyone know the wallpaper name, or how to get it for the Galaxy S2? Very nice.

    • Stella

      In the first thread, ranwanimator was kind enough to give us a link.

  • Stella

    This is one of the many reasons I love Google. I hope the developers take advantage of this resource. Hopefully, this will help new developers with great ideas get them off the ground.