Planet Google

Google Finally Offers a Style Guide for Cleaning Up Your Crappy Android App

screen shot 2012 01 13 at 9 23 52 am e1326464776783 Google Finally Offers a Style Guide for Cleaning Up Your Crappy Android AppGoogle’s philosophy towards Android developers has been something along the lines of: If you build an app market, they will come. Leave the rigid quality control (and censorship) to companies named after fruit. But yesterday, three-and-a-half years in operation, Google finally launched an Android Design Guide. Considering that there are 700,000 new Android devices activated everyday, now’s the time. Well, now or three years ago, either way.

In an interview with Wired.com, Matias Duarte, Google head of user experience for Android, says the guide will give suggestions “on everything from how to implement different visual elements to overall back-end patterns for the OS itself.” It’s been a nightmarish task for GOOG considering that “Not only does the Android team have to engineer adroit, adaptable code, but they must serve third-party developers who are trying to create apps for a constantly updated operating system.” Ice Cream Sandwich, the operating system’s latest update, hasn’t made that any easier.

But for the first time, the documentation offers insights as to how Android thinks about layout, implementation, and visual integrity:

“We haven’t really had a style guide,” Duarte says. “We haven’t really given you a lot of guidance on how to migrate your application from a phone, perhaps, to a tablet. We’ve done so only by example.”

Which has been a chief complaint of developers whenever another version of the OS is released. Developers are forced to reverse engineer the code from the new version and translate that to the previous version of Android to figure out how to move their app to the new software environment. What’s more, Android averages a new version launch about twice a year. It’s an incredibly fast pace in the mobile world, not to mention a pain in the ass for mobile developers who just want to keep their apps up to speed.

Marco Arment, the Instapaper creator who couldn’t be bothered to build his own Android app, called the style guide a step in the right direction:

Now comes the hard part: ensuring that Google’s apps follow the standards often enough, and getting enough support from leading OEMs and third-party developers, that the standards actually become conventions rather than just suggestions.

You didn’t think he was gonna let them off with just a pat on the back, did you? This is Marco.org we’re talking about here.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com