Android Customization: Concepts and Home Screen


[![](http://supermekanismo.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/customization.jpg?w=300)](http://supermekanismo.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/customization.jpg)
One of the many great things about the Android platform is the ability to customize almost absolutely everything about it. If you don't like something in particular, you can change to how you want it too look or work. For example, if you don't like the built-in browser, go ahead and replace it with whatever browser you like. If you don't like the look of your phone, there are tons of options to play around with.

After fiddling with my phone for a couple of weeks and a friend having a new phone, I thought I woule be time to write an article on customization.

Before we start customizing our funky phone, I'll explain some concepts we need to keep in mind. Our goal is to make our phone both beautiful to look at and easy to use. You'll probably use and stare at your home screens or desktop the most so it's a good idea to have it look beautiful and be functional.

Readability
Probably one of the most important aspect to consider. If you're using shortcuts, folders or widgets, you have to be able to actually read the tidbits. If you don't pay particular attention, you might be prone to opening a wrong  application or squinting just to read what that weather forecast is.

[![](http://supermekanismo.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/colors.png?w=219)](http://supermekanismo.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/colors.png)
For humanity's sake, don't ever use white with yellow.
With readability some things to consider are colors, text size, font and transparency. For colors, it's a simple rule: dark on light or light on dark. To illustrate below is a little sample snippet. Pick colors that stand out the most.

For text size, there is not much rule because I think it depends more on the font that you use. Is your font too bunched up together? Are the letters easy to distinguish? I would suggest to just test it out. Look at your phone at arms length. You should be able to read it without having to put your phone within a few inches of your face.

Simple Beautiful Wallpaper
On the beauty aspect, I think minimalism works best. Since you're putting a lot things on your home screen you might want to pick a wallpaper that is not overly complex. What do I mean by complex? A wallpaper becomes complex if there seems to be too many things happening. There are lines going all over the place or a variety of colors that don't blend. To easily determine if a wallpaper is complex is to try to see it loaded up shortcuts. Will it still look good when it has a lot of things on it?

Sample:
A simple background:
http://bestandroidwallpapers.org/23/android-wallpaper-sizes/

A more complex one:
http://bestandroidwallpapers.org/11/google-android-wallpapers/

[![](http://supermekanismo.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/customization31.jpg?w=199)](http://supermekanismo.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/customization31.jpg)
Here's what I used a while back.
If you find something you like but seems a bit complex, try to just work around it. Go and look around the net for something you want to work with. I find graphic arts and photography to be the best. To help you out here are some sites with home screens. Get inspired. [http://androidwallpapers.deviantart.com/](http://androidwallpapers.deviantart.com/) [http://www.enfeuman.com/category/customization-android/](http://www.enfeuman.com/category/customization-android/)

You can also use some apps to search for wallpapers. I've used backgrounds for a while. Check it in the marketplace. Demo below.

**Show Relevant Information** A great feature of widgets or more like it's purpose is to show you information without having to open an application. The amount and type of widget all depends on what you like best. Do you want weather or your twitter? There are an insane amount available at the marketplace. It would be a good idea to just think about the only information you need. Don't overload your screen with information. Prioritize.

For my phone, I have my main screen showing weather, battery life, time and date. On my second one, I now use a widget for calendar events and quick controls for WiFi, GPS, etc.

Easy to reach applications
One of the concepts about having a usable interface is the amount of steps you have to do to reach a or do a task. We can shorten it my categorizing, memorizing and placing shortcuts (or lessening steps). What I did on the image below was to create folders for each type of application.

Once I had it set up, it gave me a couple of great advantages.  First, I no longer need to search for each application. They are categorized in regards to their uses. Having folders also allow me to store a ton of shortcuts without sacrificing space. With this, I can also hide apps that I don't use because I won't use the app drawer much. I would also reduce the time searching for apps in the drawer.

[![](http://supermekanismo.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/customization22.jpg?w=199)](http://supermekanismo.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/customization22.jpg)
Folders to almost all my apps.
**Keep a Theme** To keep your phone looking nice, try to have the elements harmonious. If you're sticking to a nature theme, don't use icons that look too cartoony. It doesn't mean that everything has to have trees or plants but just stick to what would complement each other best. Keep in mind again colors and complexity.

In the next posts, we'll talk about the apps that help you customize your phone. Stay tuned!