Tips & tricks for new Android app developers

by: Shirwa MohamedJanuary 18, 2014

Best Android Apps 2014 Nexus 7 2013

My name is Shirwa Mohamed and I am the current developer of the Android app Sliding Explorer. I have been programming for a little over two and half years, now. I started by learning Java and then went on to do a little web development, before moving over to Android . I started building Android apps for fun about a year and a half ago, but Sliding Explorer was the first serious app that I have worked on. I am also working on other apps that will hit Google Play soon.

If you’re an Android app developer like myself or someone who wants to become one, you will undoubtedly have noticed that there are literally hundreds of thousands of apps on the Google Play store. Some apps are flooded with downloads and great reviews, while others suffer from lack of attention, and few downloads. The main question then becomes what can I do to avoid that awful drought? Today, we will be covering a few great tips that you can follow to help you in your endeavors. Let’s get started.

1. Follow Android Design Guidelines

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Google has taken the liberty of making a full set of guidelines that every intelligent app developer should follow closely. Although some developers decide not to follow the guidelines (Facebook looking at you), it is really critical that you do so. By following the guidelines, users will not only intuitively understand how your app works, they will also enjoy using it that much more. One example of an UI element in the guidelines is the navigational drawer.  The navigational drawer is exhibited in many apps and has become extremely common in well designed Android apps. The guidelines were designed to keep apps consistent with one another and make Android feel and behave as one.

2. Keep Up With Latest Trends

Android 4.4 KitKat Design Guidelines Screens AA

Occasionally, Google likes to release new updates to its current SDK, which provide developers with new ways of doing things. For example, with the release of Android 4.4 KitKat, came new design techniques developers could implement in their apps. Some of these new design concepts and trends include the new translucent status and navigational bars. By keeping your app constantly updated, you will be among the first to implement these new features and you could potentially set the standard. Users not only appreciate this, they’re coming to expect it – and if you hope to remain competitive in the world of apps, then you will always be on top of the new standards set forth by Google.

3. Listen To User Input

Responding to user feedback Android

One of the best things you can do to improve your app is to listen to user input. Users love it when developers take their feedback seriously and apply it to their app(s). To get user input, pay attention to reviews or create a Google Plus community such as this one for your app. If users are happy with the way you handle their feedback, they will continue using your app, which is a good thing because without users, your app wouldn’t exist. And ultimately, you’re getting access to a huge focus group of people that want to be proactive in the betterment of your app. Can it get any better?

4. Immerse Yourself in Android


It kills me to even say this, but it’s amazing how many Android developers don’t even use Android devices as much as normal users. Not only should you use your Android device as much as possible, but you should also take part in the Android community at large. There are many vibrant and active Android communities on sites like Google+, so make sure to check them out. There’s dozens of thriving communities where you can connect with like minded individuals, so get involved, learn, and connect with like minded individuals to hone your craft, get inspired, and improve your abilities as an aspiring Android developer!

Here’s some great communities to check out:

5. Develop For Multiple Devices

Android 4.4 KitKat Different form factors copy

One thing that sets Android apart from other mobile platforms is the freedom of choice that comes with it. Unlike iOS, Android runs on a variety of devices that have different screen sizes. As a developer, it is nearly impossible to test your app on every Android device currently out there. In order to maintain consistency throughout the many devices, one thing you can do is use density-independent pixels (dip or dp) instead of pixels in your layouts. Android will then automatically calculate the right amount of pixels for the user’s specific phone, thus leading to more consistency throughout different devices.

6. Optimize Your Apps

Users absolutely despise slow performing applications, especially ones that take up a lot of unnecessary space. The size and speed of your application can be a deal breaker for most users so make sure that you avoid this by optimizing your application.  One thing you have to do to increase your apps’ speed is to refrain from using unnecessary memory space. One common mistake that many beginners make is using unnecessary objects or variables. The Android Developer tutorials state:

As you allocate more objects in your app, you will force a periodic garbage collection, creating little hiccups in the user experience.

7. Limit Required Permissions

Android App Permissions 2014

The increasing rate of malware in Android has caused many users to be more secure and cautious with the apps they download. Seeing a long list of permissions for a single app can be a very discomforting experience for a user, so it’s vital that you limit the number of permissions your app needs. There are many apps on the market that extract extraordinary amounts of data from users, and they simply don’t need to. To put it mildly, this is an unacceptable practice, and will potentially turn away a lot of users from downloading your app.

8. Respect your users 

Advertising in Android 2014

Developers work very hard to make money – but there’s a fine line that must be negotiated. Using an app that is filled with ads is unacceptable. Many great apps have failed because the developers behind them got too greedy and opted for invasive advertisement placement and frequency. There are numerous ways to monetize your Android app, and they don’t have to compromise the users’ experience. One alternative to advertisements is to sell your app or use in app purchases. Users don’t mind paying for good apps, and, increasingly, are showing that they absolutely detest ads. Another thing you can do is accept donations. Android users are extremely supportive and will be more than willing to donate to developers who are proactive in the community, take suggestions seriously, and work to produce quality apps that their users love!

9. Have Fun

Google-IO-2013 Keynote Launch bloggers 1600 aa

Of all the tips you’ve read thus far, the most important one for you to internalize and understand is that you should always have fun when developing Android apps. If you’re having fun, developing will feel like a hobby and not a chore. Throughout development, you are bound to experience tough roadblocks, but have fun and push through. Ultimately, you’ll have the ability to potentially access thousands or even millions of people if you make a high quality app, and, if you’re passionate about what you do, then you’ll have a much higher chance of success!

Good Luck!

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Let us know how your app development process goes! What other tips and tricks can you think of that will benefit aspiring app developers?

  • AndroidBoss

    10. Don’t put ads.

    • Vedant Mathur

      That was #8

      • Luka Mlinar

        It’s so important that it needs to be mentioned twice ;)

    • SeraZR™

      A tip for the users: Use adblock :D

      • MasterMuffin


    • Jayfeather787

      I hate ads. Then you accidentally click on one then it goes to some porn app. Stupid.

    • Adam Koueider

      At least offer a paid option to remove the ads for those who are willing to pay.

  • pritish

    What is the probability of a developer applying a suggestion posted or emailed by a user or according to you, what could be a better way to feedback- a comment or an email.

    • Mike Reid

      To me, posting on a public forum the dev responds on is best, followed by email. If it’s a free app, don’t expect much. If it’s a more expensive app, you should have a right to hear back from the dev.

      I guess many people may do this by Play Store reviews. I used to read every review of my apps, but stopped some time ago when I got very busy and when I found some of those darn reviews upset me. (My failing, whatever. :) )

  • najiy91

    listen and reply to user’s feedback is the most important.please do not use automated computer reply.(‘~’)

    • Mike Reid

      Yes, “3. Listen To User Input” should be #1 IMO.

      I’ve been making a modest income from 3 years of full time development of one specific app category.

      Customers, as a whole, provide feedback on how to prioritize all the other things. If 10 or 100 are asking for the same thing, it should be prioritized.

      Public forums are best, so everyone can benefit, but lots of feedback comes from email too.

  • Daimler

    7.1. Explain app permissions to user.

    If your app need such a scary-sounding permission, explain it clearly why such permission is required for your app.

  • Daimler

    11. Don’t block rooted device.
    This will only block legitimate user, pirates will always find a way.

  • Chris

    Good article. I would love more content like this.

  • Kevin

    Very good and useful. I like it. Good job.

  • Justin

    Well done! More developer related stuff please..

  • Alex Loxton

    Thanks for sharing some very useful tips. Find it very useful for Android developer.

  • SoloLearn

    We need your feedback. Check out our entertaining and fun learning apps on Google Play:

  • srinivas kadiyala

    Thanks..I am a software tester and i would like to know real standards…

  • Albin

    I’m going to be keeping my old LG Gingerbread phone for another year or so, happy with it. As of now almost a quarter of the Android market is still on GB or lower

    while developers are fixated on developing for 4.x versions. Their apps are either incompatible with the old OS or fail older hardware users in these ways:

    . use too much internal storage
    . won’t move the app and/or caches to microSD card
    . are too bloated to download via Google Play, requiring sideloading
    . are tied into other Google services that older phone users have removed because they themselves became too bloated to run

    Developers can charge the same or advertise as easily to older versions. Owners of the 25% are paying significantly less, e.g. 1/10th the cost, for the phone itself and can easily afford useful apps to enhance them. Seems to me developers are abandoning a huge market that will be around for another year or two.

  • Randy

    I found this link where it says best 20 Hidden secrets of Android

  • Good article! Will there be more like this? I like this author’s style too.

  • jared brummond

    here is a great idea for the new software update…why not make a keyboard that allows you to switch between languages at the click of a button. For example I click english for englisch or german for german and the keyboard and smartphone automatically switches between the two allowing for auto correct and new words (slang mostly) to be inserted extra? Its a pain using an english keyboard while typing german and clicking the check mark every time…….just my idea as most in the world can speak 2 languages or more (except americans)…..:)