Android vs. iOS: UI/UX Differences

The difference between Android and iOS UI/UX design can be totally unclear at first sight. This is especially the case for those who got used developing apps mainly for one platform and has a fixed understanding of the UI/UX patterns on just this particular platform. Although if you want your users to get the full experience of your product you need to make it native to their devices. That is why today we want to outline the main principles of Android vs iOS user experience and user interface design. We’ll walk you through the whole process of designing a native app considering all the native elements.

The similarities between Android and iOS UI/UX

Before we start it is important to note that the knowledge of the similarities between those major platforms is as crucial as knowledge of their distinctions. And so we would like to begin with mentioning the basic rules which are applicable to the app design for the both platforms. As it could be expected, there are some typical similarities when it comes to the application design whether it is made for Android or iOS. So let’s start with enlisting those few features that are unique despite their belonging to different native platforms.

Guidelines

It’s important to mention that the two platforms we are going to talk about have their specific guidelines on UI/UX design. Their purpose is based on keeping the development environment special and unique. Although it is hard to avoid at least some similarities in the design elements. For instance, both platforms have close to one another basic features like the same looking checkboxes, fields, sliders, and so on. Moreover, there are not too many distinguishments when it comes to the information structure or some patterns in the navigation systems.

It’s just hard to bring much of the uniqueness to such basic elements of the user interaction architecture. But those examples are in the minority. Once the designers start to move forward they need to pay a lot of attention to the little things that actually point out to the platforms’  UI/UX specifics. One more thing here, all the developers are free to use some UI kits to help them out with the app design. Though these components can really set the right direction for the native app design this is still not enough.

The developers just need to distinguish the specifics in order not to jump from one platform’s design to another. This is important not just for the user’s convenience but for passing the rules of the app markets as well. For instance, it is not a secret that Apple is famous for keeping the guidelines pretty strict. Which later manifests itself by a long lasting and difficult process of getting into the app store. So, what is the main difference of Android and iOS UI/UX we must know? Let’s get down to business and compare the essential distinguishing elements.

UX and UI differences between iOS and Android

We want to start with a few obvious UI/UX distinctions based on the basic design elements:

  1. Android devices are generally encouraged to have more colors in the applications, whereas Apple products stick to the restrained black & white pallet;
  2. If iOS designers use colors, they tend to be more vivid and bright. So having more colors doesn’t mean being more colorful, Android colors are rather flat than bright;
  3. Android is known to have a more dimensional design by using a wide range of tones and shades, comparing to iOS;
  4. Apple devices also don’t really guarantee for you much of the comfort if you have big thumbs. They are not spacious enough unlike their opponents who prefer to leave more space among the icons for tapping;
  5. In general, the Google family prefers to have a bit more dramatic style with large sizes of the front texts, title, etc. and later prefer having a hierarchy in the text sizes. Apple keeps the fronts pretty much equal for most of the occasions;
  6. And finally, the fundamental distinctions is that Android is all about Roboto front and iOS stands for San Francisco.

Those facts seem obvious but bare with us here, we are getting closer to the real stuff. So let’s dig deeper now.

Screen sizes and resolutions

We believe it would be fair to start with the most obvious difference between iOS and Android which is the screen sizes and resolution. Needless to say that iPhones are down just to two screen sizes and only three possible resolutions. Meanwhile Android devices, in their turn, have an impressively bigger number of different screen sizes which, respectively, leads to the larger number of the screen resolutions. So this issue is the number one point to consider when you are designing a native app for one of these platforms.

Navigation

First thing here is that iOS traditionally places the tab navigation at the bottom of the screen, while Android users are looking for their tabs navigation at the top of the screen. Also, apart from the main tab which consists of the basic tools, Android allows having a scrollable tab. This could be a nice bonus for those who can’t place all the functions they need in one tab only.

Additionally, there are some few differences in the navigation we shouldn’t miss. For instance, Android keeps its navigation icons colorful, but iOS prefers more classical white or gray pattern. Another example is the navigation bars placement. Android has it shifted to the left, whereas Apple devices always have it centered.

Menu

When talking about iOS vs Android UI/UX design we can’t skip this very important point. We can distinguish two main patterns of the menu design on each platform. First, Android prefers having a drawer bar, a side/hamburger menu, which usually appears on the left side of the screen after the tap-and-pull gesture, whereas iOS prioritizes the tab bar which is typically placed at the bottom of the screen with a comparatively easier access to the hidden icons of the menu.

It is fast, strict, and encourages the interaction with the rest of the mobile menu. Although fair to notice that Apple products have tried the both versions of the menu navigation and so found the latter version to be more beneficial in the terms of usability than the previous one.

Alerts

We just need to briefly say a few words here. To righteously copy the style of all the alerts and pop-ups from the both platforms is very important for giving your application a native feeling. Those tabs usually appear suddenly and require some quick actions from the users, so you want to avoid confusion at this point and keep it clear. Therefore, here you have just a couple minor differences in those two styles. For example we have to submit an action to get rid of the alert, and so we have to either to “Agree/Disagree” with the changes, or to say “Don’t allow/OK” if it is alerts on iOS. Also, there are dividing lines among all off the sectors on the alert on the Apple devices, which we can’t observe on the opposite platform.

“Back” button

Our discussion on navigation cannot be closed without this last point about the presence or absence of the real buttons on the devices. For instance, Android devices have a real back button whereas Apple does not include such a tool to their phones. What does it mean? To compare, the back button on the Android gives an opportunity for the users to go back in the app to the previous screens they have opened earlier.

While iPhone users are lacking such a possibility and usually the app design has to be built taking into consideration this factor. The iOS app designers traditionally place the button at the top left corner. Important to note that this function will help to go back to the previous screens in the hierarchical order but not to navigate back through the entire app.

Search

We couldn’t complete our iOS vs Android UI/UX design comparison without such an essential element as the search field. Here iOS has pretty plain guidelines in placing the full searching bar at the top of the screen. In its turn, Android gave two possible solutions for the developers.

Firstly, there is an option to place the search bar at the top, which will be almost same as iOS offers but the bar on Android will be hidden and appear only by tapping the icon of the search tool. Secondly, there is a “search widget” which is given a total freedom of position on the screen.

So what does it all mean?

What have we learned from this Android vs iOS UI/UX design guide? We have established that finding the distinguishments between the platforms UI is easier than it sounds. The bottom line is that there are no major advantages or disadvantages between the design patterns of these two major platforms. The most important part is just to learn the components that differ one from another and stick to the right elements of the platform.

At this point, it is only your business to decide which platform and therefore which UI/UX design to pick for your future projects. And remember, you are always welcome to reach our company for more details on the topic or for help with turning your ideas into real life products. We are there to your service. Contact us for more information!

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