Designing mobile apps for iOS and for Android
Pedro Monteiro
7 Feb. 2017

It’s becoming increasingly important to design multi-platform mobile applications, but the truth is that it isn’t easy to understand and manage both platforms – iOS and Android – separately.

We should consider that, despite the different operating systems, the application should keep the same “look and feel” and allow the users to execute the same tasks without compromising the native behaviour of each platform.

However, a lot of designers face the question: should we respect the guidelines of each platform or should we focus on the user experience, setting aside the guidelines?

Well, there is not an easy answer to this question, since each platform is quite different when it comes software and hardware specifications, as well as users’ expectations.

And if we add all the variations within the platforms to these variations… the task becomes even more complex.

So, should we follow the platforms’ guidelines?

In our opinion, as good as the guidelines might be, we should try to adjust them and offer the user the best experience possible, even if this means giving up on some guidelines. In other words, we should look at the guidelines as a starting point for the design process of the app, adding value to the product, instead of limiting it.

But, of course, there are exceptions: moments when the best option is to use the same solution for both, even if that decision goes against the guidelines of one or both platforms; or moments when using the recommendations provided by the brand is more beneficial, simply because the user will recognize the behaviour pattern and easily find the features they want.

So, it is very important for mobile app designers to consider that iOS and Android have different native behaviours when it comes to navigation patterns and transition between screens, and for them to be aware of both navigation patterns. Our suggestion is for you to consult the Human Interface Guidelines iOS and the Material Design Guidelines.

For example, Android users are used to certain navigation patterns and interface. Most apps keep the user experience consistent with the Android user’s interface patterns. iOS navigation usually has a toolbar for users to navigate through the entire app.

However, for Android users, this kind of navigation is incoherent with the standard design language used in Android, so it can cause some frustration to the users. To avoid this kind of frustration, some designers choose to present standard navigation solutions in Android, as we can see in the example below (image on the left) of the YouTube app, in which navigation can be done through action bar tabs, as it is usual in Android.

app youtube

Nevertheless, a lot of companies, such as Instagram, opt for neglecting Android’s standards and apply the same navigation to both platforms.

app instagram

What we are trying to say is that each app is different and our goal as designers is to meet the user’s needs, offering the best experience possible, while still considering the cost that sacrificing some guidelines might have.

Certainly you’ve faced similar problems. How did you approach them?