Material Design: Why the Floating Action Button is bad UX design

Teo Yu Siang (he/him)
Tech in Asia
Published in
7 min readJun 1, 2015

Image credit: Google

Material Design is a design language introduced by Google a year ago, and represents the company’s bold attempt at creating a unified user experience across all devices and platforms. It’s marked with bold colours, a liberal but principled use of shadows to indicate UI layers, and smooth animations that provide a pretty pretty user experience on Android (and some Google apps on iOS).

One thing about Material Design, however, has bugged me ever since it was introduced last year: Floating Action Buttons.

Floating Action Button | Image credit: Google

FABs are circular buttons that float above the UI and are “used for a promoted action,” according to Google. They act as call to action buttons, meant to represent the single action users perform the most on that particular screen.

And because of the bold visual style of Material Design, FABs are strikingly hard to ignore and stand out — and herein lies the problem.

While FABs seem to provide good UX in ideal conditions, in actual practice, widespread adoption of FABs might be detrimental to the overall UX of the app. Here are some reasons why.

They take immersive out of the experience.

FABs stand out visually — they’re literally on top of every other UI element on screen. As such, adding an FAB would automatically result in a UX that is less immersive, particularly affecting apps (or screens) that aim to provide an immersive experience.

One example is Google’s new Photos app.

Google’s Photos app | Image credit: Google

The Photos app opens in a gallery view, with a floating search button. But the thing is, when I open a photos app, I just want to... view my photos.

The search FAB thus distracts the user from an immersive photo-browsing experience, which is the primary purpose of the app in the first place. Granted, smart photo searching is a unique function of Google’s Photos app. But does it mean…

Teo Yu Siang (he/him)
Tech in Asia

Sr product designer based in Singapore. I like to write.