For Google's Ice Cream Sandwich, Style Maketh The Platform

Google Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) today took one more step towards getting its device partners and developers in line when it comes to using its Android operating system. It launched a new site for developers, Android Design, that, starting with the newest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, aims to provide a style and etiquette guide for a more consistent experience across different apps, devices, and — in future — versions of the operating system.

The debut of the site follows on from news last week that Google would be requiring Android tablet and smartphone makers to install Google’s own Holo theme on all Android devices running 4.0 and higher. That would give developers a consistent option, common to all devices, for apps. In exchange for complying with Google’s requirements, OEMs then get the right to use other Google IP, such as the Android Market.

Android Design takes this one very big step further. The site starts off easy enough, giving users a top-level view of how Google “touched nearly every pixel of the system” when rewriting Android to create 4.0, and touches on three general areas where developers should be focusing their efforts. Their wording is reminiscent of the “magical”, beautiful but also vague, descriptions you often think of in connection with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), or Disney: “Enchant Me,” “Simplify My Life,” and “Make Me Amazing.”

Then things shift a gear, as Google really begins to dig into what that means. It covers just about everything you can think of in relation to making an app — yes, nearly every pixel. There are sections on displays, themes, touch feedback (specific information about shading boxes to represent how a button has been used), grids, typography, iconography (including tips for encouraging visual cues for users), and writing style. Contractions apparently convey a sense of friendliness. I didn’t know that!

It takes this through to building blocks, covering many of the elements that developers would use in apps, such as scrolling, text fields or lists.

In short, it’s a new, and fairly prescriptive overview of the platform and how Google wants developers to use it. It’s much closer to what Apple lays out for its developers — and that could well have been Google’s intention here.

What is not clear yet is how strongly all of this will be enforced by Google down the road. Will apps that use text that is too stiff get rejected, or is Google just trying to be helpful so that apps perform better? It seems crazy, but then again, if you’re aiming for consistency, the best thing to do, probably, is to remain consistent.


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