5 best practices for Android app development

11 min read
August 18, 2023

“Is it just me, or is Android development hard to learn?”

This is just one of the many complaints you’ve probably seen from developers around the web.

In a way, there’s some truth to it.

The consensus is that Android is a more difficult platform to develop for than iOS. There are several reasons for this, including device fragmentation and a steep learning curve.

But it’s not an impossible task.

Indeed, once you master the basics and adopt a few of the best practices listed here, you can create high-quality Android apps consistently.

Let’s start with the most critical practice.

Mastering key Android development tools

Much like a painter needs to master his brushes and paints, an Android developer must master the key development tools involved in app creation.

Not only will this allow you to create a quality app, but to do it within time and budget.

Indeed, mastering development tools is what separates a junior developer from an expert.

An intimate knowledge gives the expert more options, allowing them to approach complex problems with simple solutions.

This makes your development much more efficient.

Free Code Camp screenshot

Source: Free Code Camp

To achieve mastery, you typically need advanced knowledge in three domains.

First is the integrated development environment (IDE), where you’ll code and assemble the app. This is the absolute first tool that any developer must master.

There are multiple IDEs available for Android. But the best one for nearly every situation is the default option—Android Studio.

It includes everything you need to develop apps, such as a code editor, debugger, and the Gradle build system.

Android Studio also includes plenty of advanced features for streamlining development.

One is the Emulator, which allows you to run multiple device configurations virtually from your workstation.

It’s fantastic for testing your apps against various screen resolutions, OS versions, or hardware specifications without acquiring the real thing.

The target device menu

Source: Android

Next on your mastery list are Android’s programming languages. You have two choices here: Java or Kotlin.

Java is the original Android language, which makes it a relatively stable and reliable pick. Indeed, most Android libraries are written in Java.

Another good thing about Java is that it’s very secure. In fact, it’s the de facto language for enterprise software simply for this reason.

However, Java is slowly being replaced by Kotlin as the official Android language. And for good reason.

Kotlin is more expressive and concise than Java while retaining many advantages. Furthermore, Kotlin is interoperable with Java, so compatibility isn’t an issue.

Fortunately, you can’t go wrong with either, so it’s better to stick and master one.

Kotlin and Java features

Source: Krusche & Company

Lastly, you need to master Android frameworks. These libraries or functions allow you to achieve various functions without coding them from scratch.

Thus, they’re essential for speeding up your development timeline dramatically.

There are a few fundamental frameworks you need to master because you’ll use them often.

One example is the Android graphics framework, a collection of functions that enable 2D and 3D graphics on-screen.

And since many apps have visual components, having a thorough understanding of this framework is critical.

image rendering components

Source: Android

Another critical framework you’ll need is networking since every app you develop will need some form of connection with a server or other devices.

Android provides a network library by default. However, you can make your life even easier by using frameworks like Volley and Retrofit.

These are just the three basic tools you’ll need to master. Of course, there are hundreds of other third-party libraries and frameworks that will make your development even faster.

If you want to learn more, check out this article.

Emphasizing great UI and UX design

UX is perhaps the single biggest factor in your app’s overall success. Even a mediocre idea will shine if paired with a fantastic user experience.

There was even a study by Forrester that reported UX can achieve up to 9,900% ROI. In other words, you’ll get $100 for every $1 you invest. That’s a smart investment.

The ROI of UX Design scheme

Source: UX Design

The reason is that UX can maximize your monetization. By fostering trust and engagement, users are more willing to buy in-app purchases or upgrade to a paid subscription.

UX is also a critical ingredient in achieving high user acquisition and retention. It delights people and keeps them using your app for longer.

In a market with hundreds of competing apps, it’s a vital edge to have.

So, how do you achieve good UX?

It starts with having an aesthetically pleasing UI.

Your app UI should be well-designed with a good color palette. And you should base this on market research and color psychology, not just on a whim or your personal preferences.

You should be especially careful with the cultural significance of color, as it differs worldwide.

colors by culture

Source: Colours and Materials

Layout and navigation are also critical aspects of good UX. How the elements are arranged must make sense to the viewer.

For example, patterns can be used to help direct your user’s focus towards the important parts of the screen. If your UI has large blocks of text, the F-pattern layout should be used.

Otherwise, the Z-pattern is preferable for UIs with a good mix of visuals and text.

Layout scanning patterns

Source: Line Design Medium Page

There’s more to UX than these, of course. There are loads of other design principles that go into effective app UIs.

Luckily, Android provides design guidelines that can take much of the guesswork off creating good app UX. They cover everything from buttons to layouts and every component in between.

Simply follow the rules outlined there, and there’s a great chance you’ll get good results.

Android layout basics

Source: Android

The bottom line is that a great app UX should be high up on your development checklist. And with plenty of resources at your disposal, achieving it is easier than ever.

Writing and maintaining high-quality code

Writing high-quality, clean code is the basis for any software, not just Android apps.

Doing this will make your code easier to understand and maintain. This is a big deal in a team setting where multiple developers must read your code.

It will significantly reduce the time taken for troubleshooting, editing, and testing.

Consider the observation of Robert C. Martin, the author of the book Clean Code. He argues that we read code ten times more than we write it.

So if code is dirty and unintelligible, comprehending it will take a huge chunk of unnecessary time.

Quick Dirty Code vs Clean Code

Source: Finxter

Dirty code also introduces a lot of technical debt.

Technical debt refers to the consequences of taking suboptimal shortcuts during development.

In the case of writing dirty code, creating it might allow you to write faster since you won’t care much about formatting or coding practices.

But the time saved will be much less than the added time needed to edit, understand, and maintain that dirty code.

Eugene Long, the technical director of Think Tank Software Solutions, even claims that dirty code is the biggest driver of technical debt.


Source: Think Tank Software

So, how do you ensure you write clean, high-quality code?

It starts with naming your variables, functions, and classes properly.

The names you pick should make sense without too much context.

For example, let’s say you’re naming a variable that tracks the number of hours the user has been using an app.

The worst thing you can do is to give the variable a meaningless name like X. Someone reading your code wouldn’t understand a thing because X can mean anything!

Instead, give it a more descriptive name like userTimeElapsedinMinutes.

Not only does it give the purpose of the variable, but it also erases any confusion by clearly defining that the unit is in minutes.

Another strategy you can adopt is the SOLID principle, first introduced by Robert C. Martin.

Here’s a rundown:


Source: Medium

Following these principles can help you write code that’s easy to read, understand, and decipher.

Implementing strong security measures

Strong security is a must-have for any app, especially with the rampant rise in cyberattacks and data breaches.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, the cost of cybercrime will hit $10.5 trillion by 2025.

Unfortunately, developers aren’t doing enough to keep their apps safe, according to the Open Source Security and Risk Analysis (OSSRA) Report by Synopsys.

It revealed a harrowing statistic—more than 84% of codebases contained at least one vulnerability, and nearly half were high-risk.

Take a look:

Vulnerabilities and high risk vulnerabilities

Source: Synopsys

This statistic is especially concerning for Android developers because the platform is generally considered less secure than iOS.

Indeed, a study by CVE showed that Android has the second most vulnerabilities out of all platforms surveyed, with a count of more than 6,000.

top 50 products by total number of distinct vulnerabilities 1 1

Source: CVE

This ties back to Android’s open-source nature, thus making it easier for criminals to study its code and find vulnerabilities to exploit.

The best way to avoid attacks on your app is to follow Android’s security best practices and tips.

For example, stored data is incredibly vulnerable to hacks, so you need to store it properly. It’s best to keep sensitive data on a web server, where you can protect it better.

If you must store data in the user’s device, keep it in internal storage because it’s sandboxed per app and cannot be accessed easily.

Be especially careful with permissions as well, and use them minimally. For example, ensure that a user’s restricted data is indispensable for your needs before asking for access.

Android screenshot

Source: Android

Also, always ensure you’re using an explicit intent versus an implicit one.

Intents are one of the ways app components can communicate with each other without being connected. You can even use it to talk and launch external apps.

And this is where the danger lies. Because if you don’t specify the exact source of an intent, a malicious program could respond to that.

Research Gate screenshot

Source: Research Gate

Of course, these are just a few strategies you’ll need to do to achieve a top-notch and secure Android app.

It might be a huge challenge, but it’s necessary to overcome if you want to keep your app users and their data safe.

Testing the app as thoroughly as possible

No app is stable and secure the first time you code it. Indeed, even apps already launched to the Google Play Store can still hide a few bugs.

This is why thorough testing is among the most critical things on your development to-do list. It ensures that your app functions as close to expectations as possible with minimal bugs.

To do this, you must incorporate QA throughout the development process and not just towards the end with more traditional methodologies like Waterfall.

The best way to do this is with the software testing life cycle (STLC).

Software Testing Life Cycle

Source: Katalon

The STLC framework can help you plan and execute your testing regimen systematically during development.

It also saves time and effort by ensuring your test scripts and environment are in place before you need them.

Another thing to consider is automated testing.

In automated testing, test cases are run by software instead of people. Testers are responsible for writing test scripts that instruct the computer on the exact actions to take while testing.

Automated testing is powerful because it allows you to evaluate your app more consistently and thoroughly. It also requires considerably less manpower.

Manual and automation testing

Source: Multisoft Systems

But probably the easiest option is to partner with a development team or agency like DECODE, which already has an excellent QA regimen.

Because the fact is that proper testing takes a load of experience and knowledge to perform well.

It doesn’t stop with these best practices

We hope these best practices are useful for your next Android app project.

Of course, there’s more to it than just these five.

As you already know, Android development is complex. Aside from focusing on the must-dos, you should also be on the lookout for the must-nots that could derail your project.

To help you out, here’s an article listing the most common Android app development mistakes to avoid.

Written by

Ivan Trogrlic

Android Team Lead

An Applied Sciences graduate and a true connoisseur of tech, Ivan is a software developer with a genuine love for exploring new technologies. QAs love his code, and his fellow developers always value his input. For Ivan, there is no issue too small to talk over, and no problem that can’t be solved together. When he is not coding, Ivan is usually hiking or playing football. His ideal workspace? Probably a cottage in the mountains, with a serious gaming setup and fast internet connection.

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