Design tips direct from Mountain View

Google tries to control fragmentation with Android style guide


Google has published a set of non-compulsory design guidelines for Android app developers

Google has launched a set of design guidelines for Android developers in a symbolic attempt to bring some standardisation back to the platform, controlling the fragmentation that has drawn criticism in recent months. The move follows a decision to make the default ‘Holo’ theme compulsory as an option on all devices running Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of the operating system.

Accessible via the company’s central Android Developers site, the style guide bills itself as “your place for learning how to design exceptional Android apps”, featuring sections on the OS’s ‘creative vision’ and ‘design principles’, with the three core goals of Android apps described as being to ‘enchant me’, to ‘simplify my life’ and to ‘make me amazing’.

Speaking to The Verge ahead of the launch of the guidelines, Android UX director Matias Durte emphasised that they are just that — guidelines. Google will not make the principles compulsory and developers who choose not to follow them will not be penalised. Compared with Apple’s App Store, Google’s Android Market places relatively few restrictions on publishers, who are also able to distribute apps in the ‘.apk’ format outside official channels.

But this policy has proved as much a curse as a blessing for the ecosystem, with a slew of badly designed apps supported by dubious advertising doing little for Android’s reputation as a high-quality platform. Disappointed by misleading push notifications and a high incidence of malware, many Android users have called on Google to implement tougher controls to combat unwanted content.

Whether these latest style guidelines will have any effect remains to be seen — if they do, it is likely to be a minor one. Still, they act as a clear symbol of Google’s direction of travel in relation to Android, moving away from laissez-faire plurality and back towards a sort of loose standardisation, with Mountain View remaining the one and only authoritative voice.

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