Android Design Corner: Beautiful Solutions

January 24, 2014

Design Corner

 I love beautiful design.  I’m Craig Tuttle, currently studying Computing Technology: Human Factors at Colorado State University, and I’ll be taking a walk through design concepts with you here on Android Authority.

Design. Such a simple word that is so much deeper, crucial, and complicated than many people even know. Most minds generally jump straight to “graphic design” or “stuff that looks good.” And while that is absolutely correct, the word design has a much deeper meaning and use.

A basic definition of design is this: the creation of a plan about an object or idea to be built or created in order to solve a problem.

But that definition itself is a terribly designed definition.  You see, design is Flowing. Feeling. Exciting. Joyous.  All whilst solving problems.  In the Android Design Principles, the first guideline that Google has listed is “Enchant Me” – “Delight me in surprising ways.”

Design is crafting an idea to solve a problem, but in a way that will bring emotion bubbling to the surface within the people who interact with it.

So, a better definition of design is simple: beautiful solutions that produce emotion.

Yes, that was an Apple video. Watch it and move on.

As a student working freelance, I’ve had the privilege this past year of being a game designerweb designer, and videographer. However, all of these link back to my main passion: user experience design. Creative spaces that allow for the designing of experiences is where I love to dream and create.

I also love Android. So to work my passion for experience design together with it I began creating the Fourth Bar Series, a tailored set of Android ROMS for the HTC Amaze and the Galaxy Tab in 2011. More recently I created an Android 5.0 concept video that went semi-viral in Fall 2013.

Design Roots of Mobile Systems

In looking around at designer culture, it’s very easy to tell which operating system designers and creative types prefer. Apple crafts products that naturally attract designers with their beautifully designed hardware and stunning 1st party apps.

For years, iOS was hands down the better designed mobile operating system and from the support of those flocking designers flowed forth beautiful apps with tailored user experiences. Apple’s ecosystem naturally became known as the platform for designers.

Nexus 5 Android 4.4 KitKat Hands On

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Android. Its humble beginnings weren’t focused on beautiful design but rather on the basic designs of the system’s architecture itself. However, this isn’t a bad thing; set in the ground was an excellent cornerstone from which to build.

Finally, after years of refining, Android as an operating system is starting to catch up. That well designed base has been built upon to support a beautiful and excellent user experience. Hardware manufacturers such as HTC have begun crafting beautiful phones. As the design gap between Android and iOS closes, the design quality of the apps in the Android ecosystem must evolve with the operating system.

A Need to Play Catch Up

Evolution-Google-Smartphones Nexus 5 Nexus s Nexus one History

Unfortunately, many Android apps are not evolving and remain outdated. As an open platform, Android attracts many developers with great ideas for functionality whilst leaving out the most crucial element of all: beautiful design.

Without beautiful and intuitive designs, our beloved platform would remain sole domain of the technical genius geeks. It’s a new world that we live in where highly complex machines are sold to people that have absolutely no knowledge of how to operate them. Now more than ever, simple and beautiful design solutions are required for the success of apps and the android ecosystem.

Together with Android Authority, I will be bringing a new series focused on design and its relationship to Android. We’ll be taking a look at design basics, more of the Android Design Guidelines, app design teardowns, as well as the deep histories of design ideas in mobile technology so that hopefully, by the end, you will have a deeper understanding just how important the design process is within building an app.

Let us know what apps you’d like to see torn down, and where you’d like this content series to go!

Comments

  • Bojan Tomic

    Facebook is No.1 example of terribly designed app… Lol :D
    This series will be awesome, nice job!

    • AssToast

      Its okay i guess, they have a new design in the works though

      Back to topic, cant wait for the next article

    • FoxG

      yeah, this i agree with, the developer was lazy and just trying to emulate the iphone app

  • namesib

    More of the screen could be dedicated to the design without those space-consuming virtual buttons. YUCK.

    • Bojan Tomic

      On-screen buttons are honestly the best thing that has happened to android. They’re there when you need them, and they disappear when you don’t. Now with immersive mode they look even better.
      Don’t buy a Nexus/Sony/LG device and your problem is solved.

  • paxmos

    Where is N4 in the line up?

    • Tuấn Ankh

      maybe because it’s not a Nexus line up. I see the T-mobile G1 xD

      • FoxG

        Which was the first Google handset, this is literally the Nexus family minus the N4 and the Tabs

    • Bojan Tomic

      It looks the same as Gnex inside… That’s probably it.

  • Robert John Hebert

    Best article I’ve ever seen on this website.

    • http://www.AndroidAuthority.com/ Darcy Alexander LaCouvee

      Glad you enjoyed it, Robert. We will continue in a similar vein and deliver you better content in 2014 and beyond. Thanks for being a fan!

  • Zach Poremba

    Maybe the Hangouts app. Its not poorly designed, but it is bland. How can developers fix that? Also, can you delve into the actual development of an app? I’ve been wanting to try designing an app myself. Its all just so confusing.

  • Javier Renteria

    I agree with the article, the designs are not very good
    Enviado desde México :)

    • Obi Alfred

      Why do foreign people always feel the need to announce what country they are typing from. You never see someone from U.S saying “I AM FROM US” or greetings from US.

      I’m not trying to be offensive, it’s kind of a little pet peeve.

      • Tony C

        He’s not foreign. Everyone outside of Mexico is.

  • Brendon Brown

    Lovely article :)

  • Luka Mlinar

    Nexus 4 had one of the best, simplest and modern designes i have ever see. The nexus 5 is better just in the front. The beck get’s a 2/5 on a good day.

    • Melad360

      I signed in just so I could down vote you lol :p nexus 5s back is so simplistic and feels so good in the hand

      • Luka Mlinar

        Dat camera hole. :D

        • Melad360

          I think it looks pretty good, personally :p

    • tocsin

      Well is agree about the nexus 4 design but not with the rest so, downvote for you

  • Artim

    I would say Timely as one of the best designed Apps I’ve ever seen. It’s only a simple clock app like you can find on every device, but it looks much better than every other clock you can find in Stock Android or one of the manufactures clock.

    • Aleksandar Šmigić

      Google recently bought the company that makes Timley…. hint hint ;)

  • Jayfeather787

    Android will continue to look better and I can’t wait for what the future holds.

    • jack

      Android is slowly dying as companies realize the only way to be as effective as Apple is designing both the hardware and software. In years from now Google will be the only company using android

      • Jayfeather787

        Great. Pure google nexus is great. Now go die in a corner evil troll.

      • FoxG

        You’re a joke, the only company dying around the world is Apple, their market share is shrinking at an alarming rate and they’re so scared about that fact they will not even answer any questions about it.

  • gh0st

    thank you for bringing out this article, waiting for the follow-up

  • tocsin

    Just because the article is about design you don’t need to replace words that would otherwise work with design just so it seems more on topic. For example they’re developers so call them that not designers

    • Obi Alfred

      He wasn’t calling developers designers…

  • Ahmed Samir

    I bought my HTC One phone rather than other brands because of its design. It’s so elegant and sleek.

    As for Android apps, they mainly focus on functionality rather than designing a beautiful and intuitive user interface.

    On my phone, I have two wonderfully designed apps, Solcalendar and AirDroid.

  • Obi Alfred

    Android needs more minimalist styles. They are so clean and intuitive. iOS is starting to get a wave of minimalist apps such as Spark, Fantasy Wallpaper, and Fragment.

  • Tamadrummer94

    Terrific article. I wholly agree.

  • tony solinan

    I will always be an Android follower as most of my apps are Google and tech apps,I am waiting until the wmc is over to see what my next phone will be, LG,Samsung,Sony,HTC,or maybe a Nokia or Chinese phone ?I’m waiting till
    April to see what’s available before I decide?

  • tony solinan

    I will wait until April before I decide which phone Android? I will get!

  • John Brandenburg

    I am currently a Mobile Development student at Full Sail and think is a great idea for an article series. Most people think that good design is just something that looks pretty. Good design has as much to do with the usability as it does the look of an app. I think this will a good thing to go over. Looking forward to the next article.

    • Craig Tuttle

      John, you’re absolutely right. Design is so much more than looks! I actually looked at going to Full Sail a couple of years ago.

      • John Brandenburg

        It is a good school. I spent almost my whole first year learning about what makes good design. It’s been a real eye opener. I have learned so much that sometimes I have a hard time looking at stuff with poor design. I now notice all the little things that designers miss or don’t pay attention to. I will be starting Java programming this and can’t wait to try my hand at it.

  • ananthu

    I would like this series to be something that prints young developers to look beyond functionality and really enhance the experience of using Android apps.

    • Mike Reid

      And concrete stuff that can be done reasonably quickly to start.

      Not some nebulous “Enchant me stuff” that requires hiring designers, artists etc. for many months of work.

      • Craig Tuttle

        My goal is to gear this towards developers; so I will definitely do my best. However, there is also a reason why there are designers and artists out there to be hired. Many design minded companies will have just as many designers as there are developers.

  • Dan Vikkelsø

    Well… Believe me when I say this, but I’m all for designing great, intuitive and useable user interfaces and experiences. But however…

    I’m not quite sure that the Android platform is supposed to be much more than a framework you, as the user, builds and customise to your likings. I’ve never used anything but stock Android with my devices, and I’ve had quite a few. Everytime I buy a non-Nexus/Google device I always end up with a stock ROM and/or a custom launcher.

    What I do next is simply to design the device to my likings and adjust as my taste changes. That’s something I would never be able to do with an iPhone. But yes, Android has never been a operating system with focus on design. I think it’s practical and it does the deal, atleast for me, and I like that it’s up to me to enhance it the way I want to, and that it’s possible for me to do just that.

  • dreddurius

    I’ve recently installed Yahoo’s Aviate launcher. While I admire their intention of disconnecting the user from their phones, the presentation leaves me a bit confused. I hope Craig can give thus app a whirl. (hey Craig if you need an Aviate invite let me know, i’ll save this last invite code for you

  • FoxG

    The Play store in general needs a good clean out. Google needs to hire some people to go through and clear out all of chaff starting with the least downloaded and lowest rated apps, There is a heap of apps out there that have been released broken or have such poor functionality that they sour any users experiences with android immediately. This, in my opinion is maybe the only thing that Apple does, which Google could take on-board; to screen or test apps before they are posted to the Play Store to ensure quality.That being said, more and more App developers appear to be applying the style guides which have been displayed by google. Timely, Circa, and some of the newer sports apps are a delight to use now.