With more than 3 million Android mobile apps available in the Google Play Store, it’s not always easy to find the diamonds in the rough. Even the most well-designed app can languish at the bottom of the charts without a solid marketing plan behind it. Meanwhile, more than a few apps of shockingly poor quality have a massive user base, just because they’ve been released by big companies who’ve already made a name for themselves.
Of course, this isn’t an excuse to skimp when developing and designing your own Android app. In order to give your app the best chance at success, it’s best to stick to the well-established best practices. Let’s take a look at some of the best (and worst) of Android app development.
Good: The Bold and the Beautiful
Google recently announced the winners of its 2017 Material Design Awards, which are intended to recognize those Android apps that use Google’s Material Design to create an outstanding interface and user experience. Let’s have a closer look at the four honorees
- Blinkist: An app that summarizes thousands of popular nonfiction books, Blinkist won accolades for its simple yet sophisticated interface, fonts and iconography. The UI is intuitive and straightforward, making it easy to use and navigate the app.
- Eventbrite Organizer: Eventbrite makes event planners’ lives a whole lot easier with this app that won the award for interaction design. Users can seamlessly transition between tasks without getting lost or overwhelmed in the app, a necessity for the hectic job of event management.
- NPR One: Android users are accessing apps from more devices than ever before, including smartphones, tablets, watches and notebook computers. NPR One took home Google’s platform adaptiveness prize for its flexibility and accessibility, no matter how users are interacting with the app.
- Momondo: Although Momondo is one of many travel fare aggregator apps, it sets itself apart with its innovative use of graphics and animation.
Other Android apps that Google has highlighted in the past include Timely, a clock app that “feels more like playing with real objects,” and Circa, a newsreader app with beautiful design. The key takeaway here is that users want to feel like you’ve invested as much time in thinking about their experience as they’ll invest in using your app.
Bad: Battery Killers and Data Hogs
There are few things worse for your app’s shelf life than using up too much battery. The greediest Android apps don’t just deplete your phone’s power and use data while they’re running, they also continue to run in the background while you’re using other apps.
Because they refresh at regular intervals in order to find out what’s going on around you, social media apps are some of the most common troublemakers here. While letting your users stay plugged in is great, do it too much and they’ll quickly grow to resent your app for sucking the life out of their phones and adding charges to their data plans.
IT security company Avast recently released its Q1 2017 app list of the most draining apps when it comes to battery life. If you’ve used any of them before, it’s hardly a surprise that popular, performance-heavy apps like Google Maps, WhatsApp, Facebook and Snapchat are some of the worst offenders.
To avoid these issues when developing your own app, take action well in advance. Try to send data from your backend server in burst mode rather than in periodic transfers. Cache as much data as possible to avoid unnecessary transactions over the network, and turn off GPS when the device isn’t in motion. Remember: people can’t use your app if their device is dead, or if they uninstall it out of frustration with its performance.
Scary: The Poorly Designed
While iOS had traditionally been seen as the gold standard for smartphone user interface design, many Android apps now rival anything you’ll find on iOS. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to have gotten the message yet.
One of the scariest mistakes companies make when designing Android apps is simply porting the iOS design to Android phones with no modification. Android users are accustomed to a different set of UI standards, so these iOS remnants can be ugly at best and confusing at worst.
For example, “X” or close buttons to exit the active screen or page are unnecessary on Android because Android users already have a back button that performs the same functionality. Android users also aren’t familiar with navigating the app via icons at the bottom of the screen, as many iOS apps use. Instead, they usually use the drop-down “hamburger icon” (three horizontal lines) that appears in the top left.
Other Android apps aren’t poor ports of their iOS counterparts — they’re just ugly and unpleasant to use. From splash screens to annoying notifications, too many Android apps feature a wide range of unfortunate UI choices. One Android app with comically bad design is Maybank2u, an app for customers at Malaysia’s largest bank that commits a number of cardinal UI sins. To keep your apps from suffering the same fate, spend some time consulting Android’s Best Practices for User Interface guidelines.
Focus on what matters
Good mobile app development and design is no walk in the park. Conducting research can help you learn exactly what problems your users want to solve, and following best practices in app design will always help you deliver great UX in your next Android app. But still, armed with all this knowledge, many of us find ourselves lacking the skills or time to complete the development tasks necessary to build a great native Android app.
That’s precisely why we created our no-code mobile app development platform, to allow makers inside businesses of all sizes to more quickly and efficiently bring their mobile app ideas to life, regardless of whether they’re a seasoned mobile developer or not. If you let Dropsource handle the technical implementation side of building your mobile app (i.e. writing the source code), you can instead focus on making your Android app’s design and user experience truly excellent.
Do you have great (or scary) examples of Android app development you’d like to mention? Please share with us in a comment below!