About a year and a half ago (or somewhere near that), Google made the executive decision to give Android a design revamp. The launch of the Galaxy Nexus came about and with it came something much more important: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and a sleek new design theme known as Holo. A far cry from previous versions of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich hailed in a new era for Android. An era in which a neat and unified design throughout the entire operating system could be ushered in.
But two OS updates later and we’re still having trouble seeing a unified design that brings both apps and operating system together in a happy union. Holo has made serious inroads into the app design spectrum but when you look at the entire range of Android apps available, the number of apps that follow the Holo design scheme is sadly lacking. Possibly worst of all is the fact that even mainstream apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Netflix all go directly against the Holo design scheme.
Yesterday we saw something new with mainstream apps. One of the most commonly used apps out there, Twitter, received a major update. Among some other changes, this update brought in a brand new design that follows the Holo guidelines. As a user of the official Twitter app for the past few weeks, I can say that the design was certainly lacking. It felt like a mash-up between the iOS app and an Android 2.3 app. It ran smoothly though and was reliable so that’s why I was using it. But when this new update came out, I immediately reached over to grab a napkin for my salivating mouth.
The implementation has caused a beautiful shift in the design and everything now looks refined and suited for its home on Android. Gone are the iOS elements from the previous app and they’re now replaced with flat and sophisticated tabs that you can easily swipe between. Nearly everything complies with the Holo design standards and what’s left is a mainstream official app that looks just as good as many of the third-party apps. In short, something that’s never been accomplished by many other mainstream app developers.
Now think about if an app such as Instagram was created with a Holo theme. The picture above is one that was posted on The Verge forums last July by Sam Nalty. Now what Nalty did is that he took the stock Instagram app and re-imagined it to follow the Holo design standards. Now I’m not here to say that its perfect, though it’s damn well close, but I am here to say that his redesign is a piece of beautiful reference. It blends with Android 4.0+ and makes one of the most popular mainstream apps out there into something sleek and unified. The app feels like it was actually made for Android rather than being ported from iOS. That’s the goal that Google was originally seeking and if the actual developers of these apps take the initiative and integrate these things, then they can help fulfill Google’s goal and at the same time, make Android a better platform.
So why haven’t more mainstream developers gone ahead and done this? Well, there could be several reasons. The first and foremost being that perhaps they’re just stubborn and rather than going with the flow and adapting to the unified design, they’re sticking with their own design creations. This is unfortunate for the user as they’re left to deal with an app with poor design simply because the developer didn’t want to change. But there could another thing keeping them from changing. Perhaps their app revolves around a very particular design and they just haven’t found a way to successfully implement the Holo theme into that design. This is more understandable but also quite rare. The Holo design is extremely flexible so unless something is way out there, it’s likely to work with Holo. The final reason is that they may just have incompetent development teams. For a long while, Android users struggled with a Facebook app that was little more than a link to the mobile site and was riddled with bugs. The design was an atrocity and that’s without mentioning the unbearable speeds of the app. After a bit of training to whip them into shape, the team has finally managed to make the app fast enough to run without too many issues. Unfortunately, the Holo design is still lacking within the app.
You’re probably at that point where you’re wondering why you even read this ranty article. If so, I’m sorry, I do tend to rant a bit but I have a reason behind it. I want more mainstream developers to follow Twitter’s example with their app redesign. I want them to see that there really isn’t a problem with the Holo theme and that their apps can look infinitely better by just embracing the uniform design. That’s the entire point of this article and that’s why I wrote it. But I value your opinions just as much as mine. Unfortunately, I have no idea what your opinions are at the moment so hit up the comments section below to let me know. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on the matter. Get typing down there, yo!