Android From Scratch: Common UI Design Patterns

While Android allows you to create almost any custom view or user interface that you could possibly want, there are a few user interface patterns that have been proven to work well for users in the right situations. In this tutorial, you learn about a few of these patterns and how they can help your users by creating a great experience when using your app.

1. Home Screen

The first screen that your users see when opening your app is often the most important. From here your user should be able to perform a quick action and move on with their day or dive further into your app to refine whatever they’re trying to accomplish.

Pick the user interface design patterns for this screen based on the goal of your app. It is important to note that most apps use more than one pattern on their home screen as long as it supports the overall goal of their app.

List and Detail

The list and detail pattern is one of the most common patterns you will see on mobile devices. As the name implies, you present data in a list format and, when an item in that list is clicked, it opens to a new screen that displays more details.

While this pattern is called list and detail, there’s no reason why you couldn’t apply this same logic to a grid design as well. The key feature of this pattern is that each item in the list/grid, when selected, should perform the same action of displaying more details.

An example of this pattern can be seen in the Google Play Music application, which presents users with a grid of albums that can be selected to display the songs available for that album. Hangouts is another example of the list and detail pattern. Hangouts allows you to select a conversation to see the entire conversation and interact with it.

Google Play Music Grid of Items

Carousel

Sometimes, one list isn’t going to be enough. If your app has various categories and a way to represent the content well with an image, then the carousel pattern may work for you. In this pattern you take the list and detail pattern and use it multiple times on the same screen. The difference is that the list items can be scrolled through horizontally rather than vertically.

An example of this pattern can be seen in the Google Play Store application, which displays a carousel for multiple categories of apps that you can browse.

Carousel Pattern in the Google Play Store

Map

Not all apps are built around needing to display a list of data for users. One of the key traits of mobile devices is that they are incredibly useful for finding things while users are out and about in the world. A map often makes a great tool for this purpose.

If your app is built around showing locations, navigation, or traveling, then a map may be perfect for your users. While the obvious example of this pattern is in Google Maps, many other apps, such as Waze and Uber, are also built with a map as their main focus point.

Map Home Screen in Waze

2. Navigation and Actions

While you have just learned about a few of the user interface patterns that you can use on your app’s home screen, you probably still need a way to navigate to other sections within your application. Luckily there are a few commonly used navigation patterns that Android users are familiar with to help you create a great app that is to work with.

Tabs

Tabs are often used in combination with the list and detail pattern. If you have multiple lists that are somewhat related, but have different categories, then using a ViewPager with tabs for each category may be an efficient solution for navigating your app.

This pattern is useful when you have just a few sections in your app as it provides a quick and easy way for users to change the view. If, however, you have five or more items that you want to put into tabs, then you should consider moving your navigation operations into a drawer.

ViewPager Tab Design Pattern

According to the Android material design guidelines, tabs can also exist at the bottom of the screen, as seen in the Google+ application.

Bottom Tabs Design Pattern

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