Mobile apps are a major pillar in the digital era. Around 6.3 billion people own mobile devices; the average user uses ten apps daily and 30 apps monthly. Actually, the average American checks their phone 262 times a day, which equals 5.5 times per minute!
By now, we all know that iOS and Android are the leading smartphone operating systems. You must also know how important UI/UX design is for successful applications. While there are key similarities between UI/UX design for iOS and Android digital experiences, there are also key design differences. In this post, you'll learn the ins and outs of UI/UX Design for iOS and Android mobile app development. Let's scroll down!
iOS and Android Approaches to UI/UX Design
Regarding general mobile design rules, patterns, and UI elements, iOS and Android apps can be very similar. They prioritize User Experience, Responsive Design, Product Accessibility, consistent navigation, design patterns, iconography, and typography. Also, they strongly promote user feedback, hierarchy, and visual clarity. However, there's a world of difference in how they implement these design standards. iOS and Android have their design guidelines for creating successful applications.
Google developed the Material Design Principles for Android, and Apple made the Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) for iOS. These guidelines are open-sourced and free so that any designer can access them. Following them makes the design process faster and easier, improving user experience and reducing errors. Plus, they make the development process quicker and cheaper. Since these guidelines dictate the main difference in UI/UX design for iOS and Android, let's explore them further.
Apple's Human Interface Guidelines
The Human Interface Guidelines are the core of Apple iOS design, focusing on easy-to-use and intuitive Interfaces that meet user expectations. HIG values accessibility, simplicity, perceivability, auditing, and testing. It also covers best practices for designing layouts, colors, images, branding, patterns, and other UI components. The core principles that represent Apple's design best practices used to rely on clarity, deference, and depth. Yet, they have recently added some considerations, like a strong emphasis on accessibility and inclusivity. It's critical to ensure apps are usable by individuals with diverse abilities.
Another key focus is cross-platform adaptability to ensure a seamless experience regardless of the user's device. The introduction of Dark Mode and customizable appearance options underscores the importance of user preference in interface design. Gesture-based navigation is encouraged to enhance user interaction, aligning with the trend toward more intuitive controls. Privacy and data protection remain paramount, with guidelines emphasizing transparent data handling practices. Additionally, leveraging features like widgets and app clips and exploring opportunities in spatial audio and augmented reality are key considerations for creating engaging and innovative User Experiences.
Android's Material Design Principles
Now, let's look at the Material Design Principles. Like Apple, Google developed these design principles to help ensure a harmonious User Experience for Android users. Material Design Principles aim to blend classic successful design principles with cutting-edge tools to achieve the best results. They have specific guidelines for Flutter apps, guiding designers and developers in handling motion, transitions, interactions, etc.
Material Design's UX foundations have predominantly focused on adaptive layouts, ensuring seamless user experiences across diverse screen sizes and devices. Accessibility remains a top priority, with guidelines emphasizing inclusivity for users of all abilities. Motion and animation continue to play a crucial role in enhancing user interfaces, providing intuitive feedback, and aiding comprehension. Additionally, attention to color, typography, and iconography aims to create visually compelling and user-friendly designs. Using pre-built components promotes consistency while allowing customization to align with brand identities. Incorporating user feedback through micro-interactions further refines the overall interactive experience.
One of the coolest things about the latest version of Material Design (Material 3) is that it has a robust design kit for Figma. Besides, it seamlessly integrates with Flutter, natively compiled for Android and iOS, which means that Material Design also has guidelines for iOS UI/UX design.
Main UI/UX Design Differences Between iOS and Android
iOS vs. Android: Navigation
Android users can easily move the app's navigation hierarchy backward using the back button. You can normally find it on the navigation bar's bottom left or right side of the screen. Android device's navigation bar has two other default buttons for top-level navigation. Besides, Android apps normally have a navigation drawer. A hamburger menu icon is normally at the screen's top-left corner to access other app sections.
On the other hand, iOS' app navigation style often has a "Back" at the top-left corner. Like Android, the nav bar is at the bottom of the screen, but the buttons are different. iOS's nav bar, called Tab Bar, features a "More" button that allows users to access more sections of the app. Another cool feature on iOS is that users can go back by swiping from the left edge of the screen.
iOS vs. Android: Screen Sizes
If this section were a contest, it would definitely be a win for Apple. iOS has a very standardized set of screen sizes. That makes it easier for UI/UX designers to test designs, making sure they're responsive. The smallest size for an iPhone's screen is 320pt x 568pt. That's another thing to note: iOS uses Point (pt) as a unit of measurement instead of pixels.
Compared to iOS, Android is the Wild West of screen sizes. Designers can only test their work on some available viewports. Hence, adaptive design is critical for Android layouts. Instead of Point (pt), Android uses density-independent pixels (dp). Because of this, Android screen sizes typically go from 426dp x 320dp to 960dp x 720dp.
iOS vs. Android: Fonts and Typography
One important aspect of HID is the choice of fonts, which can greatly impact an interface's readability and visual appeal. The default system fonts commonly used are San Francisco and New York. San Francisco is a highly legible font optimized for small sizes and text-heavy interfaces. Its clean and simple design makes it easy to read, even in smaller sizes. On the other hand, New York is a serif typeface that is more suitable for larger sizes, such as headings and titles. The Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) recommends that the minimum size for text should be 17px, which ensures that the reader is legible and easy to read, even on smaller screens.
When it comes to Android apps, Roboto is the recommended system font. Roboto is a clean and modern font that provides a consistent look and feel across all Android devices. It is optimized for mobile devices and has a legible design that makes it easy to read on screens of all sizes. Using Roboto in Android apps ensures that the interface is consistent and easy to use, which can help to improve the user experience.
iOS vs. Android: Dialogs vs. Action Sheets
Another key aspect to consider is information prompts and input forms that ask users to complete an action. We're talking about those pop-up boxes that appear on top of your screen when using an app. Material Design guidelines refer to them as "Dialogs." According to Material 3, you must use Dialogs as input forms to ensure users complete a single task. You can also use them as warnings to confirm high-risk actions, like deleting some of your data. Material 3 recommends using Dialogs meticulously since they interrupt the User Experience.
Apple's Human Interface Guidelines define these information boxes as Action Sheets and Alerts. Action Sheets work as input forms since they appear based on an action the user started. This way, they present users with multiple choices and a "cancel" option. Best practices for Action Sheets include keeping titles short and using messages only if needed. Making messages that can result in harmful consequences noticeable is also highly recommended.
On the other hand, HIG says you must use Alerts for actionable and essential information. They must also be imperative, requiring immediate action from the user. You mustn't use Alerts just to provide information. For these reasons, you must only use Actions Sheets and Alerts sparingly. Using Alerts when the app starts is a huge "Don't."
UI/UX design for iOS vs. Android requires a deep understanding of the Material Design Principles and HIG respectively. These principles and guidelines may be different from rules in essence. Yet, they're vital for intuitive, beautiful, intuitive designs that users love. They lay the platform guidelines for iOS and Android development, streamlining the Product Development Life Cycle in the process.