Published November 3, 2010
Michael Martinez
Title: Android and the UI Date: 2010-11-03 11:15 Author: Michael Category: Android Tags: Java, UI Slug: android-and-the-ui Status: published
I just watched the Google I/O 2010 Android UI Design Patterns video a bit to be sure, but it was very informative and I suggest watching it when you have the time (1 hour) if you haven’t seen it. The video explained some concepts that I have had trouble grasping for which I’m very thankful. Hopefully, I’ll find more along these lines.
A few of the tutorials I’ve followed in making apps request the user to delete the HDPI, MDPI and LDPI folders and simply rename one folder to Drawable. The talk explains why those folders are not only included in the initial app structure, but why they are increasingly critical for cross device penetration. For example, lets say you have app icons that look great on a medium density pixel per inch screen. If you simply use the Drawable folder with said icons, when your app encounters a LDPI or HDPI screen the icons will scale horribly if you haven’t accounted for it in the code.
The talk also spoke to 5 main design paradigms for great Android applications, which are; Dashboard, Action bar, Search bar, Quick Actions and Companion widget. I’m not going to get into each one as the Googlers do a WAY better job (with visuals aids) explaining them.  I found them to a great place to start and perhaps some self introspection to my own shortcomings when designing just about everything. I think I should pay way more attention to usability and user expectations.
The QA was really enlightening for me and here is why. I’ve been struggling like heck with the Quasi-WYSIWYG & XML based UI editor  in the Eclipse IDE. I thought I was deficient in my XML coding ability and I am, BUT I not as bad as I thought. I mean, I had problems making the simplest things look right in the editor and subsequently the emulator. Thank goodness I have a real Android device otherwise I would have made a completely unusable app. Back to the point, A question asked if the Google Android team was working on a UI editor that either replaced or updated the “ATROCIOUS” Eclipse implementation. All of the Google employees on the stage simply looked down and smiled when the question came in. I think its safe to say that anyone (Including Googlers) who have worked with the tool thinks of it as a brain-stealing-puppy-killer.
The product manager said they are working on a product to resolve this very issue but he was not in a position to disclose the details publicly. Needless to say, I’m eagerly anticipating its release. I hope they take some strong cues from Microsofts Expression Blend and/or Design. A tool that would automagically convert PSD/AI files to Android specific XML files would be so absolutely kick arse. I can’t really think of any adjectives to describe how happy I’d be.
An Aside about tutorials/learning:
Learning from a book is easy when the book has a lot of pictures and samples/examples. Its not as easy to learn when the book is simply text and the concept is abstract and non-linear. Perhaps the best method of learning is the video, at least for me. You can skip ahead in a video, but its annoying once you realize that you missed something important and have to rewind. So I generally let it play from start to end. When I’m nose deep in a book, I have the tendency to jump around and look at the pictures and read ahead, then back and then I’m lost. This is before I really understand what I’m looking at which is a of a waste of time because I have to read it over.
  • Also, don’t always blindly accept tutorials as the correct way to do something simply because it worked. I have learned an important lesson tonight in regards to this point in the example above.