Why I believe in Google’s Material Design — from an Apple Guy

I am an apple guy.

Let me start by saying that I’m an Apple guy. I have been since my first Mac when I was 16 and type this on a MacBook Pro that’s sitting beside my iPhone 6.

So when Google announced it’s new design language, Material Design, at Google I/O in June I quickly disregarded the announcement.

But as time went on and Google products that I regularly used began adapting the look, I started questioning what it meant to me as a user and to the design world as a whole.

What is Material Design?

Google defines Material design as “design by seeking to build experiences that surprise and enlighten our users in equal measure”. In a nutshell it is a refreshing, simplified design language that encourages interaction and implies depth.

Why I believe in it:

It will bring uniformity to Google products across devices

Material design will bring visual and experiential uniformity to Google products across devices, thus strengthening the brand and ultimately the company as a whole while encouraging the continuity principle

Material design will bring Google something it’s lacked for so long — uniformity across products. There are clear contrasts in both user interfaces and user experiences across products like Android, Chrome and Gmail.

Something as simple accessing settings is done three different ways across these products alone.

While the Google name is strong, its products lack a consistency that, if implemented well and fully across products, will strengthen its name and ‘brand image’ much like Apple has done with theirs.

Hamburger menus are becoming more and more common in web and app design

What Google has done by including a “+” and hamburger menu as the two main forms of navigation is simplify the user experience dramatically. The user really only has two options accessing actions within the application (not including card interactions which we will touch on that later).

The “+” is a clear indication that selecting it will create something or add something. Though vague, it limits the users actions to only a few logical assumptions as to its meaning even without an explicit label.

Even though hamburger menus are ambiguous and statistically discouraged without a label, they’re menus are becoming more and more adopted in web and app design as a catch all for “everything else”. Where else will users click to perform an action if not wanting to add or create something? Logic says this hamburger button.

Card displays, lists and interactivity/depth encourage scrolling

The cards are “typically an entry point to more complex and detailed information..”(Material Design Guidelines) while tying related items together. In applications like Inbox, cards contain message content. Their shadows, typography and buttons imply depth ala additional content within each card. Accessing additional card information requires a click and although not necessarily an intuitive action learning this action is essential to material design and translates consistently across applications. When the cards expand or contract upon selection, they change states — often with an increase in shadow and opacity, subtly drawing users’ attentions to that item only. This minor, fun action, increases interactivity and changes the way we see the design.

See video below for interaction examples.

The stacked card display also encourages scrolling. This suits well for mobile devices considering horizontal scrolling is a poor user experience and despite popular perception, users will scroll if your content is intriguing to them.

The interactions make sense

Both interactivity and depth are natural outside of digital so it only makes sense to translate them onto devices. The user learning curve is therefor lowered, thus the design becoming more intuitive.

It’s refreshing and exciting

The Roboto font face, flat iconography and vibrant color palette are several items that breathe freshness into Material Design. Establishing a design language is also a bold step for Google and counter to Apple’s distinct and matured look.

It’s UI is defined

Having so clearly defined colors schemes, spacing and rules in general makes material design easily duplicable. This will help the style grow more rapidly and remain consistent across sites and devices.

Sample colors

I have to

Between Google Search, Gmail, and Android, Google has one of the largest reaches of any tech company in the world. It’s only a matter of time before Material Design is the norm. It’s a Google world and we’re just living in it.

Though it’s certainly not perfect, it’s a step in the right direction for the design community and a more unified, intuitive digital future.