Hey people! I'm a designer and find it difficult to figure out how exactly I should design Android apps that would be backwards compatable with older versions of Android. Most of the forums that talk about Android backwards compatability don't really mention how it affects the app visually. They are all developers discussing how it works behind the scenes. That doesn't help at all. Could you please briefly explain how, why and what I have to concidet while designing. Thanks in advance.
It has a bunch of design resources to get you started. Also, if you are using Sketch, they have Android Material design presets that you can use and they are mildly helpful.
Designing for the phone starts out at 360x640 DP. If you keep all your assets as vector or Smart Objects, you'll run into asset-cutting-resolution problems less, further down the road.
As far as being "backwards compatible" design-wise... that's not really a thing (DN, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). There is nothing on older OS's of Android that prevent it from displaying a Material-designed app. Certain patterns have changed slightly over the years, but the core functionality is all the same. Navigation drawers, action bars, swipe view tabs, descendant navigation etc.. have always been there, they just got visually updated and their importance changed slightly throughout the years.
Check out this slideshare to give you an some quick Dos and Don'ts of Android navigation. http://www.slideshare.net/SwapnilBorkar1/android-antipatterns-50418877
So, in short, how do you make it "backwards compatible" design wise? Just follow the guidelines that Google gives you. They are all there in that Giant Material Design Guideline, you just gotta get familiar with it all.
Take this long winded response with a grain of salt, as I don't work on Android apps day-in and day-out.
Hey Andrew, thanks a lot for taking your time to answer me. I appreciate it! I'll look into the links you've provided.
Most facets of your design should be the same across all Android versions. The only major exception is motion. Some of the fancier effects (shared element transitions, circular reveals etc) are hard/impractical to achieve on older devices so they might have to gracefully degrade.