What is Material Design?
The web went through several transformations ever since it was first introduced to the world. Each change has been making it convenient to the users, with the users having more to explore, with literally no boundaries. After webpages and browser pages, came smartphones and several other smart devices.
From static web pages to intuitive, smart devices with artificial intelligence, the transformation has been tremendous. But Google hasn’t forgotten the changes that should be happening in web pages. There has been a transformation in the Google-design system and language. And that was where Material Design was born.
Explaining Material Design
So, Material Design was Google’s brainchild, and it emerged in the mid-2014, and codenamed “Quantum Paper”. Material Design is used for a number of design implementations. The paper-based design styles made it quite different from the flat design style popularly used in those times.
The purpose of developing Material Design was to deliver high-quality output across all the platforms on a consistent basis. This will bring in a unified user experience across all devices, platforms and input methods. This is almost like Apple’s design principles which they used as their standard method. But Google went a step ahead, and made it possible to have consistent user experience.
Google’s Material Design guidelines have become the standard protocols for any company’s branding because they have been recognised as being affiliated with Google. Interestingly, Google has been adopted by the huge and growing design community. So that means, anyone can use Material Design, not just on native platforms, but on other competing platforms as well.
The easiest thing about Material Design specification is that there are guidelines for everything – style, color, imagery, grids, space, typography etc. And it guides the designers to show them how things look, including international designs containing hierarchy, focus and meaning.
Tips on how to make Material Design effective across platforms
- The concept or tactile reality
One of the principles of Material Design is to take the concept of tactile reality and apply it. The design should offer users familiarity when they incorporate real world features. For example, the button should look like one – the look, the surface, seams and edges must be consistent with a button to enable the users to take a hint.
To reveal moving parts, there must be realistic lighting and shadowing so the user understands instantly.
- Adaptive design
In adaptive design, the icons, colors, spatial proportions and the hierarchy will be consistent across various platforms and devices. The designs themselves have to be catchy, and orderly so the users will be able to catch the hierarchy easily. To give better experience to the users, make sure there is enough whitespace, large topography, strong imagery and brilliant use of colors.
- Messages using motion makes a whole lot of excitement
Users love it when they are in control of their navigation. When they see the changes resulting directly from their actions, they will be more receptive. Animations in continuous flowing movements with predictable actions will make the users relaxed.
However, it is important for those movements to be natural. For example, if a user drags and drops a selected item into a folder with other objects, the objects already in the folder must move aside to make room. The user will be shocked if after ‘the drag and drop option’, the object vanishes and they cannot see what happened to it. This kind of magical response will turn off the user.
Material Design principles
Material Design is a lot more than adding shadows and three-dimension effects to features. It is an all encompassing resource that lays the foundation for a new design language. Have a look at some of the basic principles of Material Design.
- Material is a Metaphor
Users enjoy digital experiences that seem natural to them. So this is one of the first basic principles to be added in the apps and websites that you create with Material Design. The laws of cause-and-effect must be followed diligently, in the sense that when a user performs an action, they expect a predictable outcome, and they must get that. The movements that happen in the page must be consistent with how it can happen in the real world. This would encourage them to engage more with the apps.
- Meaning and logic through Bold, Graphics and Hierarchy
Every design choice must have some meaning and logic to it. The designing should be such that there must be some sort of a rule, a reason behind it. No longer is it about designing because somebody liked it or because it’s trendy. According to the latest system, the UI elements should follow a certain accountable hierarchy. The Material Design explains the following elements in a logical manner:
- Typography and Web Fonts
The Material Design Color Palette Generator is a feature that allows designers to push for stronger, bolder color palettes to encourage contrast and depth in the User Interface.
- Motion to make it intuitive
Animation is not something you do for the sake of animation. With Material Design, the aim is to make it more intentional so the user experience becomes more intuitive. There is a purpose for having motion in design. Here are some of them:
- To inform the users when and where an action is available
- To direct focus into more important parts of a page
- To add character and personality to the interface
The entire focus is to make the user journey more exciting, entertaining and favourable.
The one thing designers did not like about Material Design
Material Design did have one major flaw that designers can easily complain about. The concept was too black and white, meaning everything the designer has done has been spelled out, leaving very little room for creativity and improvement. There are templates and components from which they can work , but they all have the same design system and rules.
For brands looking for uniqueness in their visual style and appeal, this was not easy because the design system became available to the public, and it is important to create a system that can be consistently modified and maintained.
Originally, Material Design had a theme that’s very light and bright, and that didn’t suit the theme of many brands, but now that has been cleared, and there are dark themes too, adding more visual flexibility to developers.
There has been a revamp to Material Design, and the design system does not restrict the creativity and uniqueness of the designer anymore. There are now tools that would not only adhere to the design best practices, but allow the designers to have their own creative spin as well.
Material Design has become more flexible and empowering than ever before. And with extensive documentation and support, developers and designers really do love the benefits of Material Design. Designers can develop interfaces that are more intuitive, they can now work beyond the aesthetics, and develop an intentional design improving user experience.
Start using Material Design to make websites and applications more accessible, more friendly and intuitive.
The author: Sascha Thattil works at Software-Developer-India.com which is a part of the YUHIRO Group. YUHIRO is a German-Indian enterprise which provides programmers to IT companies, agencies and IT departments.