What Is Flutter And How To Design With It?

Written by Lila Lee
Last modified Jan. 26 2022

The tech world has evolved at an overwhelming speed in the past few years, and with that, there has been a significant development in mobile applications as well. If you have been up to date, you would know that ever since its launch in 2018, Flutter has been one of the fan favorites among mobile application developers.

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For all these years, Flutter has had a steady journey as one of the leading open-source software development tools. And now, with its recent upgrade in 2020, it has opened the door to a lot more possibilities as it transitioned into a cross-platform technology. And so, many new developers have started to lean towards Flutter to create UI designs that bring value to the end-users.

Having said that, if you are someone completely new to this and want to learn how you can design using Flutter, then you have come to the right place. Read on as we delve into the process of how you can build UI/UX with Flutter.

Table of Contents

TLDR

  • Flutter is an open-source SDK built by Google that helps software developers to create true cross-platform designs.
  • Flutter uses Dart as its programming language and has multiple ready-made widgets for the developers to build attractive UI designs at a faster rate.
  • With the recent upgrades, Google has made some noticeable modifications with Flutter that have grabbed the attention of many.
  • Following the prerequisites, Flutter is an easy app to master.

What Is Flutter?

Flutter is an open-source technology framework built by Google that helps you code and creates cross-platform designs for iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web, and Android applications, and now for the web as well. It is a toolkit that allows you to craft native designs with a single codebase. Simply put, you can create applications for all the different platforms using a single codebase and programming language.

So, what makes Flutter so special? Since Flutter comes with a built-in Software Development Kit or SDK and a widget-based UI library, compiling your codes to native codes comes with ease. Moreover, Flutter uses Dart as its programming language that comes with a static runtime and static type checking, minimizing time spent on testing compatibility.

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The idea behind Flutter was to optimize productivity by allowing developers a single platform with an array of widgets, motion APIs, and tools that they can use to create well-crafted and native-looking applications at a faster rate. This relatively new technology allows a developer to create consistent designs on multiple platforms with flexibility. And the fact that it is now in shoulder-to-shoulder competition with the top dogs like Linux, Vue and VS code, and one of the top 10 software repos on Github, speak for its credibility.

Features of Flutter

Flutter comes with a bag of unique goodies. Some of the significant ones include:

Hot reload

Hot Reload is the feature that allows developers to see changes in real-time, so they do not have to restart the app for any alterations made. In other words, if there are any bugs or any changes within the coding, then the feature lets the developer know so they can pause the process and fix the bug immediately. So, it optimizes productivity by reducing the bug-fixing time by a half.

Widgets

When you install Flutter, you are already offered an array of customizable widgets for your design purposes. These widgets follow both Material Design for Android and Cupertino and include anything from fonts to buttons on the menu.

Since these widgets get developed by Google, they perform better than other open-source frameworks in the market. And since these widgets are not a part of the platform, you will be spending less time testing designs on different OS versions.

Dart

Flutter uses Dart as its programming language. It uses both Ahead Of Time and Just In Time to compile Dart into the native code. Thus, Flutter can avoid using a JavaScript bridge.

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Source: javapoint.com

Moreover, Dart uses the 'tree-shaking' compiler, so you can only add the codes that you need in your app. That way, the entire startup process gains better quality and a noticeable speed.

What Can You Expect from Flutter 2.0?

Flutter made some noticeable head turns in 2020 with its upgraded version that now supported all six software platforms. It is a true cross-platform solution for creating apps that perform consistently on different platforms.

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Source: flutter.dev

With Flutter 2.0, you get a new CanvasKit and extended APIs that optimize the entire web performance. With this, Flutter can quickly fix any alterations made in the coding during the developmental process. Not just that, Google has added new features and widgets in the 2020 version that allows developers to create platform-specific adaptive designs.

However, the upgrade by Google that has made the most impact is the optimization of the monetization process. With the latest version, you can add personalized ads in the inline banners and receive payments for them. So, Google has made the entire process of charging for apps simpler for developers.

Lastly, with the 2.5 version of 2021, Google has made further improvements including, full-screen support for Android platforms, updated widgets in the Widget Inspector, more Material You, and much more.

The Prerequisites To Flutter

Before you start with Flutter, there are a few prerequisites that you need to tick off in order to have a smoother experience.

Now, the step to learning Flutter can seem daunting to newbies, especially because the first step starts with Dart. As previously mentioned, Dart is the programming language that developers use while building frameworks with Flutter. But, the good news is that learning Flutter is not that hard. If you are a software developer who has previously worked with native Android or other mobile frameworks, transitioning into Dart to create detailed applications will come easier for you.

Keep in mind that a basic idea of OOP is crucial to working on any framework. So, prior experience of working with Object-Oriented Programming Languages or OOP, such as Java, C++ will already set you off to a good start. Either that, or you are familiar with the OOP concepts such as inheritance, interfaces, encapsulations, objects, and polymorphism since these languages like Java and C++ come from these concepts.

If you have any of the above two skills, then learning Dart afterward would be a cakewalk. If not, then start with learning OOP concepts that way, your progress will be faster while learning Dart.

How Do You Use Flutter: A Brief Guide

Now that we have gone through all the essential bits, we can finally move on to discuss the design process on Flutter.

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Build a Flutter Environment

You start by creating a codelab that will help you to construct coding in the Android Studio IDE. And in order to do that, you need to install the Flutter Software Development Kit, which is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

However, keep in mind that the installation process will depend a lot on the platform you are using. For example, you would need to install Xcode for constructing an iOS app and Android SDK for your Android app. Next, you need to configure an editor that can be of your choice from the detailed video shown while setting up IDE.

Create a New Project Using Flutter

This step is to create a template design for your app that you will be modifying later. For this, you need to launch Flutter using your IntelliJ, Android app, or command line by going to its home page and starting a new project. In this article, however, we will demonstrate the Android way so you can understand the process better.

While you are launching your new project, select the type of application as well. Once you have launched a new project, check that your SDK path shows the SDK's location. So next, you can select a name and your preferred UI design for your temporary version. Once your device installs the SDK, create your Flutter design.

Create the Main Design Interface for Your Application

In this step, you take the templated version that you have already created and modify it as your final model. Since the goal here is to create a ChatApp that allows messaging between two or more people, we need to add the following configurations:

  1. the app displays texts and allows the receiver or sender to reply in real-time
  2. a soft keyboard to type the texts
  3. messages can be sent using the return or enter button
  4. and the user interface is available for all the platforms.

Add UI Design to Create Messages

Now, designing any ChatApp starts by configuring a user control that allows users to type texts and send them to the recipients. So, start by using the Material Design called the TextField from the UI builder and configure the text input. You can modify things like using the return button as the control to send texts. Lastly, add the StatefulWidget for an interactive ChatApp.

Additional UI Designs to Display Messages and Debug

If you notice any ChatApp, you will see that there is a designated area where all the chat names appear in an orderly manner. From the ones with who you have recently texted to the ones that you have texted with months ago. Use the Flutter widgets to define the area where all the chats will appear and an area where the received texts will pop up.

Once that gets done, you can move on to the debugging process using the Dart DevTools, which will identify and remove all the coding errors from your design.

Design Animations

In this step, you need to insert platform-specific animations from the widgets to optimize flexibility.

Final Touches

Lastly, from customizations such as resizing to fonts, colors, and other details, you can add all the additional tweaks here and there.

Why Should You Opt for Flutter to Create Your UI Design Purpose?

Flutter is currently one of the most trending Software Development Kit in the market. Now, there might be a lot of arguments on the internet about Flutter being ‘the next big thing’, but there is no denying the fact that Flutter is a quality app that covers a wide range of the spectrum without breaking your bank.

Flutter is a user-friendly SDK that allows you to create a cross-platform with a single code-base by simplifying the entire mobile applications development process. Its rich API and customizable widgets enable developers to build well-crafted UI designs. And its innovative technologies are the reasons why developers are increasingly relying on its simple and faster ways of creating cross-platform applications.

Final Takeaways

Unlike other frameworks, Flutter allows you to share the UI Code and the UI itself between cross-platform and maintain consistency of the end product. If you are developing an app that leans on OS-level features, then rest assured that Flutter will provide you with plugins to use as well.

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