Google to share Android app templates tomorrow to bump up design quality

In another nudge to raise the design bar for Android apps, Google is releasing some templates or stencils tomorrow that should help developers make their apps look more elegant.

It’s part of a big push from Google over the past few months to have a more consistent feel for the Android platform. The effort is led by Matias Duarte, a senior director for user experience who came from Palm.

A few months ago, Google launched a design tutorial site, followed up by a formal style guide that came out in January. It also started requiring Android compliant devices to offer the “Holo” design theme, so that app developers had the option to save time by relying on one consistent look for apps that came with every device.

“This is part of an ongoing conversation we really want to have with the design community,” Duarte said in an interview. “We want them to know that we take this really seriously and we want to give them the tools to succeed.”

Duarte said he would have done this earlier if it weren’t for the resource and time constraints the Android design team had.

“This was always part of my agenda. If we could’ve launched the Android design site with all of the tools and templates at the same time that we released Ice Cream Sandwich, we would have,” he said. “But unfortunately, we are a very tiny team.”

Of course, the challenge with overseeing an ecosystem of 450,000 apps at a company with a more open philosophy like Google is raising the quality bar without necessarily excluding any single developer’s ideas about what makes a good user interface or experience.

“We don’t want to do anything to enforce this,” Duarte said. “It’s important to us — whether that sounds naive or willfully unique — that developers get their vision out there.”

So fostering better Android app design is more about using the carrot, rather than the stick. Duarte and the design team have been in discussions with employees at Android Market and developer relations about how to feature or reward more thoughtfully designed apps with better marketing in the app store.

“We think it’s a great idea. We want to find a way to highlight developers and who are embracing design standards,” Duarte said.