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Iryna Pantel

Leading mobile UI/UX designer at ELEKS

Android vs. iOS: UI/UX Differences

1

Challenge

Create application that supports both platforms (iOS and Android) and has a similar functionality optimized for interaction design principles and users expectations unique to each platform.

Environment

The important thing to keep in mind is that iOS and Android environments are based on unique for each platform guidelines, user interaction architecture and design patterns. There is a number of iOS and Android similarities in look and behavior of various UI components like

  • information structure;
  • basic UI elements (sliders, checkboxes, tabs, text boxes, fields etc.);
  • list-based navigation;
  • majority of gesture touch controls (excluding “tap and hold” gesture, which is commonly used to reveal contextual bar with options or enter a data selection mode).

However the number of differences is worth paying attention to. Below you may find a short overview of the core design peculiarities that should help better understand differences in the design approach for both Android and iOS.

1. “Back” navigation. 
In iOS applications “back” option is placed in the upper-left corner of the navigation bar. It is used to navigate backward within the defined screens in the application however it is not used to navigate backward across the entire device.
In Android devices there are two types of “back” actions: “up and “back”. “Up” is placed in the upper-left corner of the top bar and is used to navigate up the application’s information hierarchy. In contrast, “back” option is presented as a button on the physical device that allows navigating backward across the entire device.

Back navigation in GMail for Android and Dropbox for iOS


2. Top navigation. 
In iOS applications tab navigation is placed at the bottom of the screen. In addition, according to iOS guidelines there are no more than 5 tabs displayed at a time.
In Android applications tabs are recommended to be placed at the top of the screen. Besides scrollable tabs are allowed to be used in case there are more tabs than can fit in the viewable screen width.

Top navigation in Google Play and Dropbox for iOS

3. Switching between various data views.
In iOS applications switching between views of the single set of data is typically done through the bar divided into segments.  Each segment is responsible for one view.
In Android applications switching between views is done through the UI control “spinner”. This control is presented like a drop-down list of options. “Spinner” is usually placed at the top action bar.

Switching between data views in Google Calendar for Android and iOS Calendar

4. Search.
In iOS applications the searching UI control is placed at the top of the screen mainly.
In Android applications several searching options are available:

  • “search bar” at the top of the screen that is similar to the iOS approach. However the bar is hidden until the user clicks on the search icon;
  • “search widget” that can be placed anywhere within the application interface. Coomonly it is used within the application’s action bar at the top of the screen.
Search in Google Play and Foursquare for iOS

5. Actions. 
In iOS applications can be accessed through the toolbar that contains action buttons, through the action button that is in the upper-right corner hand side of the navigation bar or through the buttons within the interface screen.
In Android applications it is recommended to display actions in the action bar at the top of the screen. If there is any need in displaying more actions than can fit on the action bar, either an action overflow icon appears on the action bar for devices that don’t have a hardware “menu” button, or the user accesses additional actions by pressing a hardware “menu” button on devices where there is one. Android applications may also use contextual action bar. A contextual action bar is a temporary action bar that overlay the app’s action bar for the duration of a particular sub-task.

Actions in GMail for Android and GMail for iOS

6. Screen sizes and resolutions. 
iOS phones, for instance, come in two screen sizes and three resolutions (including the latest ).
Android devices are represented by a lager list of screen sizes and screen resolutions. This issue has a significant impact on the layout while designing the application.

Summary

It may appear as the straightforward idea to create one application for both platforms however important issue to consider is that interface elements of both platforms are not the same.
Though application’s core features and functionality may be the same on both platforms application’s interface should follow specific for each platform guidelines. Therefore to meet user expectations and ensure smooth user experience application’s design should be adapted to the unique platform design patterns and respect native UI standards.

 

Iryna Pantel

Iryna Pantel is a leading mobile UI/UX designer at ELEKS. She dedicates almost all of her time to creating useful and usable interfaces for web, mobile and desktop. She also likes reading design-related literature and articles on communication means and levels. Iryna's free time though is fully dedicated to family and friends and playing tennis. For Iryna, writing articles helps organizing her thoughts and sharing them with friends and colleagues.

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