Using Material Design

Regardless of how good the underlying product is, it’s the design that the user interacts with. The design can either enable the user get the most out of the product, or if designed badly it can even become a barrier to using it properly. Whilst every product wants to stand out in the marketplace, it’s sometimes this overwhelming desire to be unique that can actually be its downfall.

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Material Design is a visual language developed by Google, which was introduced a few years ago. It defines the way in which apps should look and behave. Google developed Material Design to unify the user experience across all Google platforms, from operating systems and apps, to the new watches and glasses. This improved overall experience makes user interaction easier, simpler and more intuitive. It also helps the user understand the cloud concept in which their data seamlessly flows and synchronises between their devices.

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Material is a metaphor for the way the visual language uses space, light and motion to convey how objects move, interact and exist with each other. Whilst embracing the flat design trend to a certain extent, Material Design also imagines everything as a layer (or a piece of paper). Surfaces and edges of the material provide visual cues to reality. This has helped the user make the transition from pen and paper to device - perhaps in the future this will no longer be necessary and Material Design will evolve to reflect this.

Working on a new front and backend redesign of the Glisser presentation platform, I decided to follow Material Design for three main reasons:

User Familiarity

Some of the most interesting feedback we received was that whilst the current Glisser platform works well, it’s not always clear how to use everything on it. The learning curve to using the platform had sometimes got in the way of using it to its full potential. This meant that the redesign had to feel more intuitive, natural, and easy to pick up.

Without even realising perhaps, you will almost certainly have used Material Design and be instinctively familiar with it. Do you use YouTube, Google Search, Google Drive, or even the Android operating system? If so you would immediately feel at home on the redesigned platform. Rather than develop a unique visual language it made sense to make the Glisser web-app feel like any other app on your device.

Quicker to Implement

We’re a small team at Glisser, but we pride ourselves on how quick we are to respond and react. When we bring out a new feature it needs to be defined and agreed, designed, written up, developed, tested, and launched. To have a defined design framework to rely on means we can concentrate on how it will work, and how it looks tends to just slot into place based on existing reusable objects.

User testing can also be a long process, but having tested the components already in other features means we can focus just on what’s new. What this means for the user is quicker, more frequent releases of the Glisser platform.

Performance

Although not exclusive to Material Design, implementing reusable elements means that the system doesn’t have to load new content layouts and components for every screen or view. Whatever we can reuse, we do, which means that we can cut page load times without compromising on design - if anything the overall consistency aids the design.

This means a quicker, leaner platform for both audience members and presenters using the platform.

Whist we’ve decided to embrace Google’s Material Design, it’s important to remember that they are only guidelines to aid continuity. There are some complex problems that will need you to break the rules, and that’s ok.

Written by

I am Simon Mauro Guido, a Product Designer (UI/UX) and Visual Brand Designer based in London. https://smg.design

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