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Android's latest incarnation has come with an unexpected bonus, a design guide to help developers polish their apps, and add some much-needed consistency to the platform.

The guide comes in the form of a website. Matias Duarte, head of user experience at Android, talking to Wired, describes it as "the second part of Ice Cream Sandwich".

The site aims to help developers with designing their applications, rather than coding them, in the hope of making the whole platform easier to use.

Google has been very good at providing technical support to Android developers; the tools and documentation for Android development are superb with step-by-step guides to development and publication of apps. What that means is that anyone who can instantiate an object or two can spit out an Android application, and sadly many of them have.

But programmers are notoriously bad at design. The lack of social skills which makes one so good at working with computers often renders one equivalently incapable of designing competent user interfaces, a failing which is very much in evidence in the deeper recesses of the Android Marketplace.

Apple has, unsurprisingly, always been more design focused, with consistency of experience being central to application development from the very start. iPhone applications might be just as pointless, irrelevant and/or overpriced, but they do, on the whole, look better.

Which is what the new style guide is trying to address. It includes basics such as using lots of images, and suggests making assumptions on which users can backtrack rather than asking for confirmations every step of the way. Entreaties to "make me amazing" or "enchant me" might irritate, but get past that and there's a lot of sensible advice included.

All this really should have been there earlier, before developers were let loose on the platform, but with Ice Cream Sandwich Google is trying to reboot Android as a slick and stylish competitor to iOS, so will be hoping lots of developers take note. ®

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