A Quick Thought on Android UI Themes

Right now I’m sitting in the dentist office lobby and decided to jot some thoughts down while killing time.

Earlier today I was showing off the latest version of The Shopper to a few friends of mine. If you follow me on Google+ you may have seen about a week ago ago that I posted a few screenshots of the app with the new UI optimized for tablets. The major difference is that it adheres more closely to the design guidelines provided by Google with modifications only to the colors used.

Surprisingly each of them agreed that it looks sharp and way better than the previous version. Even my girlfriend, who is my primary test user, said that she’s much happier with this layout design and prefers it.

This got me wondering about UI design for mobile as a whole. It’s always interesting to design your own UI theme but is it really necessary in most cases? I’m not talking about developing custom widgets but more toward themes and skinning.

I’ve used a few apps where skinning was possible and it’s always felt a little flaky. There are usually a handful of skins the user can choose from and some just look like total shit. I guess I’m wondering where it is a designer draws the line and says enough is enough.

I think it’s different for solo developers like myself who are the entire team in one: designer, developer, marketer, etc… Personally I’d rather cop out as easily as I can with UI such that I’m not spending a month working on custom art for widgets. So I’m more inclined to stick to design guidelines. We’re not necessarily designers by trade so the recognition of where to stop with theming might not be as obvious.

Does that mean we can’t make beautiful looking apps? I don’t think so. But I do think that it’s easier for people like me to go into overkill with the UI design. With The Shopper, I’ve been skirting around the UI carefully which is in stark contrast to how I did it last time. Maybe this is the better way to go?

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