When it comes to building apps, perhaps the most important element is the app’s look, as it is obviously the first thing that consumers see when they are considering downloading it. Therefore, if you want your app to be downloaded by as many people as possible, you need to ensure that the quality of the graphics is top notch.
The essential graphic elements
The way an app looks is vital because it is the first way a consumer interacts with you and your offerings and goes towards establishing the quality of the product. Any app that fails to demonstrate good, clear and clean design, attractive and user-friendly layouts that work perfectly on any device, and high-resolution images and graphics is almost fated to fail. You should also consider how any text within your app will appear, so you will need to utilize sharp, clear fonts at a reasonable size set against a complementary color palette rather than one that will be garish and hard on the eyes. It is a small element but one that has proved popular with users and that is to give your graphics rounded corners rather than sharp-edged points.
As it is essential that when you build an Android app the images are of the highest quality, it is important that you aim for professional graphics, whether that means investing in photographic equipment or design software that will allow you to achieve this high standard, or by buying suitable images from online stock photo libraries, such as www.dreamstime.com. You should also only use graphics that are appropriate in terms of size to the devices they will be used on.
To just return to the type of graphic or image element you should use for a moment, be aware that lighter pixels use more power than dark pixels on active matrix displays, so you should factor this power usage into your graphic choices when designing your app. Also consider how your graphics will display in both indoor and outdoor conditions, because as most apps are used in mobile situations, you have to appreciate that some of your users will be operating in broad daylight and they will not think very well of your app if they cannot actually see it clearly.
Scaling graphics for consistency
One of the biggest elements you may have to contend with when it comes to building an Android app is scaling, i.e. ensuring that any graphic looks as good when enlarged as it does when the size of a thumbnail or smaller. Android does this by considering two things: the size of the screen the app is being viewed upon and the pixel density of the screen in pixels-per-inch (ppi). Android classes devices with a screen size of 3-4 inches as being ‘small’ or ‘normal’ (i.e. cell phones), any device larger than 4 inches as ‘large’ (small tablet) and any device larger than 7 inches as ‘extra-large’ (large tablets). The screen density will matter most in terms of scaling and consistency with graphics and images. You need to provide size- and density-specific resources when uploading your app to Android, because otherwise Android will take the app as it is, without scaling, and the result will be a ‘best match’ to the nearest size/density resources rather than the perfect fit you should be aiming for.
Types of images and graphics
You should also choose which format of image or graphic to use when building your Android app. Android actually works better with PNG for bitmaps, but it will accept a JPEG. It will possibly reject a GIF, however. But PNG and JPEG are not necessarily interchangeable, as there are pros and cons to both. For example, a JPEG will work better for images or graphics that need to be reduced by up to 50%, which is important if your app is graphic-heavy. With a PNG, you can have a bigger file size and you do not lose quality. With a PNG you can also have transparency, which you cannot have with a JPEG. Which format you use will depend on the type of app you are building. For instance, PNGs are best for apps with icons, simple graphics and artwork, few colors and text-heavy, while JPEGS are best for those that utilize photographs and other realistic types of images that combine a lot of colors and those with gradients.
It will also help you to label your graphics appropriately when developing your app and in the debugging process. If you have used the size and density-specific resources mentioned previously, then you can add relevant and visible labels to these so that when you perform the debugging process, you will be able to see straight away what resources were loaded with the app and which Android will be using.
Mobile devices, which are what most apps are designed for, are different from desktop computers in that they are usually high-density displays. For this reason, you should always configure your Android app emulators to mimic the values of real devices and set them to scale to the density of the device they will be used on.
When it comes to the testing stage of your newly built app, you should test it on a real device rather than just relying on a test drive performed on your computer. If you do not try your app out on a proper device, you may not be able to tell whether your layouts and other scaling aspects, such as graphics or images, react appropriately. You should also test that your app works properly when reacting to Android defaults.
Building an Android app is a complex business, but when done correctly, has the potential to be a supremely financially rewarding business. Just remember to consider your user at all times to develop an Android app that meets all their expectations in terms of functionality and appearance.