Dos and don’ts of Android app development

11 min read
July 12, 2023

With a market share of 71.4%, Android is currently the top mobile operating system in the world.

And it’s attracting thousands of developers to the platform, creating over 2.5 million apps as of 2023.

This saturation means developers must create better apps that stand out in the market. And it starts by following these dos and don’ts of Android app development.

The Dos

Let’s first talk about the do’s or the best practices you must consider when developing Android apps.

Using Android Studio to develop the app

There are various integrated development environments (IDEs) available for Android developers, such as AIDE and Eclipse.

However, we reckon that the official IDE – Android Studio – is still the one you should use. The simple reason is that it includes features that make coding simpler, faster, and more efficient.

Android Studio

Source: Android

One of the hallmark features of Android Studio is Instant Run.

With it, you can change the code while it’s running. This means you can see updates in real-time, saving you from having to re-compile it again.

Another stand-out is Android Studio’s range of debugging tools. These can help you find more errors in your code much faster, letting you achieve higher-quality apps in lesser time.

For example, the breakpoints feature allows you to set points in the code where the app runtime will stop.

This lets you inspect the exact state of the app, including variables and parameters, to ensure everything is as expected.

Android Studio 1

Source: Android

Best of all, since Android Studio is the official IDE, it has exceptional compatibility with all of Android’s APIs, libraries, and toolkits.

Reading through the documentation

Android app development is intricate, with various guidelines, components, and capabilities to remember.

Fortunately, Google makes this process easier by compiling everything you need to know into comprehensive documentation.

Going through these guides is almost mandatory if you want to create the best Android app.

That’s because they contain best practices and useful tips to help you create stable, secure, and high-performance code.

Developer guides

Source: Android

Android’s documentation also includes a handy API reference, which you’ll browse constantly as you build an app.

Aside from developer topics like app architecture and accessibility, the other crucial part of the documentation is the Material Design guideline.

The Material Design guideline outlines all the best practices and concepts for creating intuitive and aesthetically-pleasing UIs.

It also helps you achieve that familiar Android look and feel without trial and error.

Androids documentation

Source: Android

Best of all, Android’s documentation is easy to read, helping even complete newbies master app development much faster.

Creating reusable UI components

Modularity is one of the best approaches for making app development faster and more efficient.

The idea is to create app components that you only need to code once and reuse numerous times.

This has several advantages. For one, you don’t need to code everything from scratch, saving you loads of time.

And when you want to make changes to a component, you need to do it only once. This helps reduce human error significantly.

In Android, reusable components can be facilitated with XML files. You define the layout parameters in the XML, which you simply call in the relevant code.

For instance, the XML code below sets the layout’s attributes, like height and width.

XML code

Source: Android

The great thing about XML files is that you can easily pass them to other members of the development team.

This guarantees that your app has a consistent layout, regardless of who works on it.

Optimizing the app’s performance

Optimizing performance should be at the top of any Android developer’s to-do list.

The fact is that it’s not enough that an app works – it must also work flawlessly, safely, and efficiently.

After all, to the person who wants to access their funds with a banking app, it likely won’t matter that they have the ability to do so if they can’t do it quickly.

Indeed, long load times have a significantly negative impact on app reviews, as you can see below:

app loading time effects app ratings

Source: Appventurez

Fortunately, there are a hundred ways to improve your app’s performance.

One is memory management. This task tends to be more crucial for Android because it generally consumes more memory than iOS.

Plus, hardware fragmentation means you must consider devices with low RAM.

Android vs. iOS sizes over the years chart

Source: Android Authority

You should also reduce your app’s load time and latency.

You can do this by reducing the file sizes of your graphic assets, optimizing code to run more efficiently, and using content delivery networks (CDNs) to speed up data retrieval from servers.

Lastly, it’s best to monitor your app crashes continuously. You can easily do this with a tool like Shake, enabling users to send reports easily when they encounter an app failure.

Implementing strong security measures

Android has a reputation for being less secure than iOS, and there’s some truth in this.

Due to Android’s open-source nature, manufacturers can freely adopt and edit the OS to fit their devices.

Unfortunately, this could introduce new security risks and vulnerabilities before Google can release a fix, giving hackers a window of opportunity.

multiple vulnerabilities in google Android OS cloud allow for remote code

Source: Center for Internet Security

While Android provides robust security features like sandboxing and app signing, it’s still the developers’ responsibility to ensure the security of their apps.

Good coding practices are vital to prevent any vulnerabilities. For example, you should never store sensitive data in the local cache file because those are easily accessible by anyone.

Furthermore, you should always apply basic cybersecurity techniques like encryption and authentication.

This ensures that hackers can’t simply access a person’s data, even if they manage to hack the person’s phone.

Lastly, security measures should go beyond the app itself and the entire ecosystem.

In other words, ensure the network, web servers, and databases are also secure, as they can be access points for hackers.

The Don’ts

Now that we’ve discussed a few must-dos, let’s delve into some practices you should avoid.

Including too many features

One big mistake more developers make is to cram as many features as possible into their apps. The intention is to make the app more robust and versatile.

Unfortunately, that’s flawed thinking. Too many features will overwhelm your user without necessarily providing them with value.

Plus, you’ll end up unnecessarily increasing your development time and costs.

It’s better to distill to only the core features – capabilities essential to fulfill your app’s primary purpose.

One effective way to do this is through the feature prioritization matrix shown below:

feature prioritization

Source: DECODE

The feature prioritization matrix uses three metrics to gauge how critical a feature is to a project.

Impact is how important a feature is to the user experience and the app’s goals. Effort is how difficult, time-consuming, or expensive it is to implement that feature.

Finally, risk determines if the feature is a security risk.

Features are then categorized based on these three metrics.

High-impact, low-effort features are the must-haves that must be in your app.

High-impact but high-effort features are nice-to-haves. These are usually included in the app but only later (such as in a future release).

Low-impact, low-effort features are the can-be-dones. They’re not essential to the app and are only included when time and budget permit.

Finally, low-impact, high-effort features are a waste of time.

This approach isn’t the only way to ensure that you have the right number of features in your app. For more prioritization methods, read this article.

Relying too much on third-party libraries

Third-party libraries and tools are a boon for Android developers.

They can help you implement advanced functionality with just a few lines of code, thus saving you countless hours making it from scratch.

However, over-reliance on these libraries is also dangerous. Thus, it would be best if you used them with restraint.

The main reason is a lack of quality control.

You have no idea how skilled or experienced the library developer is, and thus they could’ve potentially introduced security vulnerabilities.

This gives hackers a potential way into your app, as this infographic shows:

top 10 api security risks ecc

Source: EC Council

More worryingly, if the third-party library developer decides to shut down or discontinue the library, it could cripple your app.

This is what happened when a developer named Azer Koculu nearly broke the Internet when he deleted 11 lines of code in a library he developed – a library that, unfortunately, most websites have come to rely on.

The workaround here is only to use third-party libraries only when necessary.

And if you must, make sure it’s from a reliable developer that is committed to supporting the library for a long time.

Continuing to use depreciated APIs

One expected consequence of releasing new Android OS versions is that older functions and APIs will get replaced with newer ones.

Some might become outdated entirely, often because they’re already redundant and a better alternative exists.

It’s a developer’s responsibility to keep track of these depreciated APIs and replace them as needed. Unfortunately, many still fail to do this.

This could be risky.

One of the reasons Android depreciates APIs is because it presents a potential security risk. Thus, continuing to use them could potentially endanger your app.

This is exacerbated by the fact that depreciated APIs are no longer supported with bug fixes or releases.

Fortunately, Android Studio will inform you of depreciated APIs and functions as you code, allowing you to update them.

Android Studio 2

Source: Medium

If you must use depreciated APIs, ensure your code checks the user’s Android OS version to establish compatibility. This allows you to use an alternative if necessary.

Neglecting the user experience

Your app’s user experience (UX) is one of the most vital aspects you mustn’t ignore, even if some may do so because they think that features alone are enough to make their app successful.

UX can single-handedly make or break your app. Consider that 88% of users are unlikely to keep using an app if it’s not user-friendly.

On the plus side, UX has been shown to deliver a generous ROI of 9,900%:

The ROI of UX Design scheme which shows that return of investment in UX design is 100 for every 1 invested

Source: UX Collective

UX starts with having an intuitive UI – one that is easy to navigate, doesn’t bombard the user with too much information, and looks great.

However, UX goes beyond just the visuals and encompasses other aspects of the experience.

For instance, sending the right number of notifications is critical. If you overdo it, your user will most likely uninstall your app, as this study shows:

Number of weekly push notifications that cause users to disable push notifications

Source: Avada

Other non-visual aspects of UX you must consider include gestures, accessibility, and monetization.

The latter is critical to get right because even a well-loved app can turn off users if they feel you’re charging them unfairly.

Failing to regularly update the app

Your app is unlikely be successful on the day you launch it. Chances are, you’ll need to tweak and refine it over time through regular updates.

Some developers, however, fail to do this often enough. They think the bulk of the work stops once the app is published, which is untrue.

That’s because there will always be bugs and errors that slip through the cracks. You might discover that your UX might not be up to par.

Or users might be asking for a new feature to improve their experience.

If you fail to update your app to fix or improve upon it, you’ll slowly alienate your user base. Indeed, an app that no longer gets constant support from the developer is a huge red flag.

Thus, regular updates and maintenance is the key to long-term app success. And you should ideally cover these four types:

4 types of mobile app maintenance

Source: Flutter

Predictive maintenance is when you release updates based on metrics you collect. For instance, if you notice your load time trending higher, you release a patch to fix it.

Adaptive maintenance is when you want your app to adapt to changing hardware or software requirements. One example is when Android releases a new OS version.

Corrective maintenance is the most common. This involves fixing crashes, errors, or bugs when users report them.

Lastly, preventive maintenance involves optimizing your code and app architecture to reduce future errors.

Need help with Android development?

With these dos and don’ts, we hope you’ll be one step closer to creating a successful Android app.

But if you want to get there even faster, it pays to have an experienced Android development agency like DECODE on your side.

We have a proven track record and a pool of talented developers to help make your next project successful.

Simply schedule a consultation session with us, and let’s talk!

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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