There is no doubt anymore that the Android ecosystem has come of age. It’s the largest mobile ecosystem out there, and with the release of version 7, Android has touched a level of sophistication that we could only dream of in earlier days. This means it’s the perfect time to get started as an Android developer – both to make a career for yourself and to create something that you can be proud of. With Internet of Things and wearable devices on the horizon, the future indeed looks very exciting!
So, what words of wisdom do we have for someone who wants to get started in Android development? Before we begin our five easy tips, here’s an honest confession: it’s not going to be easy. Android is the result of years of platform development and engineering refinement; it’s a highly modular and complex platform, so if you’re a website developer, prepare for a whole new world of complexity. But thankfully, it’s easy to get started and gradually ramp up your skills as you develop more sophisticated apps.
Still here? Good! Then let’s see how to get started.
Here are 5 Android Development tips for Dummies
#1. Use Android Studio only: If you search for “Android development tutorial”, many of the links you’ll find teach you how to set up Android in Eclipse, IntelliJ Idea, or even NetBeans. Now, while it’s certainly possible to create an Android app in these IDEs, there’s a reason Google created and is pushing Android Studio – painless and faster development. If you choose something else, chances are you will be stuck with some feature or plugin that doesn’t work, and getting help on forums will be a nightmare. Or maybe your emulators will be super slow and you will have no idea where to turn to.
Android Studio was created to avoid these problems. It’s a smart, Android-aware environment, and once you get used to it, it’s like wielding a superpower. So, remember, use only Android Studio.
#2. Use code analyzers: Security is the biggest concern in Android apps, partly because of some loopholes in Android itself, and partly because of poor programming practices. While not much can be done about the former, for the letter, tools like Devknox are a great way to add value. In case you didn’t already know, Devknox is a free Android Studio plugin that analyzes your code as you type and offers suggestions on how to improve it. For those one-off cases where we tend to overlook the best practices, it’s priceless.
#3. Learn Java (at least a little): Many of the griefs experienced by new Android developers are not related to Android per se, but Java as a development environment. Packages, libraries, build systems, JARs – there’s a whole world to explore besides the language itself. Our suggestion is to put a lid on your enthusiasm for some time and buckle up for the hard work. Once you are familiar with these tools and practices, you can uncork your love and dreams of building the most popular app in the world.
At the same time, don’t go overboard and try to digest the entire official docs before beginning. You don’t need to know lambdas, generics, and other such advanced topics. Just the very basics of the language along with some inheritance are fine.
#4. Be aware of market fragmentation: One constant theme of Android development is the sad fact that the market is heavily fragmented. A small portion of devices are running the best hardware and the latest Android; a majority are still stuck in Android 4 or 5, and then there are devices that are running stuff as old as 2.3!
Moreover, not all devices with the same version behave the same at all times. Frustrating? Yes! Can anything be done about it? No. But if it’s any consolation, consider that all the developers worldwide, no matter how experienced, are struggling with this. All in all, it boils down to having a strategy for which devices and version you’re going to support.
#5. UX is very important: Since mobile screens are limited to tapping and touching with a single finger, the users have limited options of actions they can perform. This means the app must adapt to a new set of rules where there’s no keyboard or mouse. In turn, this means that if you’re coming from a website developer mindset, you’ll need to unlearn a lot. Your app not only has to look nice (snap uninstalls are common in the mobile app world) but must also be intuitive to use. It’s a whole field of study in itself, but if you keep this mind and watch other apps closely, you’ll be already doing much better than most beginners.
Making Android apps is fun, but there’s no escaping the rules and hard work that goes into ensuring high quality. If that’s been your takeaway from this blog, we’ll say we’ve done our job!
Build great, secure Android apps effortlessly.