What is "Material Design", Why Did Google Create It and Why Should You Care?

February 20, 2023

By: John Tomblin, Senior Solutions Architect
GlendaleBizz, a division of Sofvue, LLC
Printed with permission of Data Titan, Sofvue, LLC and the author.

Google developed “Material Design” as a language to assist in the creation of mobile applications, which has become a widely adopted standard since its introduction in 2014. Material Design is centered around the concept of making the interface tactile, adaptable, and aesthetically pleasing, much like tangible materials in the physical world.

For starters, how does Material Design serve you, the small business owner, in your business ops?  Consider these four points:

◾ Better user experience: Material Design offers a visually appealing and intuitive interface that can help small businesses improve the user experience of their websites and apps. By using Material Design principles, small businesses can create a consistent and familiar design that their customers will appreciate.

◾ Increased engagement: Material Design offers several design elements and features that can help small businesses increase user engagement. For example, it includes animations and transitions that can add interest and keep users engaged, leading to longer session times and more interactions with the business's content.

◾ Accessibility: Material Design also places a strong emphasis on accessibility, making it easier for small businesses to ensure that their websites and apps are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. This can help small businesses to reach a wider audience and improve their reputation as an inclusive and user-friendly brand.

◾ Flexibility: Material Design is a flexible design system that can be adapted to suit the needs of different small businesses. This means that small businesses can choose the design elements and features that work best for their specific needs and goals, creating a unique and customized design that sets them apart from competitors.

What is Material Design?

Although Material Design has been in existence for roughly nine years, it has gradually become an industry standard. It was developed by Google as a progression of their previous guidelines for Android user interface (UI) development, with the goal of promoting consistency across apps, providing users with a seamless experience on various devices (such as phones and tablets), and delivering visually appealing interfaces that are both functional and high-performing.

To establish hierarchy, meaning, and focus that fully engage users, Material Design employs print design techniques like typography, grids, space, scale, color, and imagery.

Purpose of Material Design

Material Design is an all-inclusive manual for designing digital encounters that offer a harmonized user experience, facilitate brand communication, and establish significant, lasting interactions. It incorporates the principles of exceptional interface design and can be implemented on various channels such as websites, applications, and wearables.

As veteran web designers with more than two decades of experience in Glendale, we can attest that Material Design is not simply a set of aesthetic guidelines; it's a holistic approach to the user experience, encompassing all elements from typography to animation.

This technique amalgamates time-honored design principles with innovation and the potential of technology and science, creating a visual language that is both cutting-edge and elegant.

The Fundamentals of Material Design

Material Principles consist of a set of directives for designing successful user interfaces that were derived from several research studies conducted by Google. As a result, Material Design employs a grid system based on multiple ratios, such as 1:2 or 1:3, to facilitate the creation of more balanced layouts.

Material Design is based on the following core principles:

Responsiveness: The material world is subject to change over time and space, and objects react to their surroundings by stretching, bending, or shrinking to maintain their original proportions.

Visual Weight: Material possesses mass and physical presence in the physical world. Its characteristics can be experienced through touch, smell, sight, and sound. Visual weight is achieved through the use of size, color, and contrast in graphics to add depth and maintain spatial relationships between on-screen elements in an intuitive manner.

Color: It elicits emotions and moods that are conveyed through nonverbal means. For instance, red is commonly used for error messages because it stands out from other colors on the screen and makes people feel uneasy when they see it.

Animations: Material Design should be responsive not only to user actions but also to user inactivity. This implies that when a user stops engaging with an app for a specified period, it should revert to its default state.

Layered Depth: Objects should be displayed in layers with varying depths of focus. This can be observed in Google's usage of shadows, which are frequently employed to add depth to their applications.

Using Material Design in the Real World

In recent years, Material Design has emerged as one of the most popular design trends on the web, with prominent sites like Airbnb, Google Maps, and YouTube incorporating Material Design elements into their interfaces.

However, it should be noted that the initial version of Material Design had several shortcomings, and its lack of extensive customization options led to numerous websites and apps looking alike.

To address this, Google unofficially released Material Design 2.0 in 2018, which addressed these issues and offered greater customization options, emphasizing white space, colorful icon sets, bottom navigation bars, and a dark mode.

As a result of Material Design 2.0, designers can unleash their creativity, and there is no impediment to expressing individualism on the Internet.

Today, developers get access to:

✅ The Material Color Palette is a collection of 18 colors that can be utilized in various ways, ranging from background colors to typography. These colors promote the creation of a cohesive design throughout your app or website.

Material Elements refer to reusable HTML/CSS components that can be effortlessly placed anywhere on your site or app by utilizing simple CSS classes like .list or .button. These elements consist of various features such as cards, dropdowns, tabs, lists, and tooltips, among others.

They’ll also find starter kits and tools like

✅ Icon sets
✅ Google fonts
✅ Design kits for Adobe, Figma, and Sketch
✅ Design templates

Pros and Cons of Material Design

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of any design language is vital before implementing it, as it can help you save time, money, and effort. Material Design is no exception.

Pros of Material Design

Material Design is a reliable source for designing websites and apps. It offers an extensive perspective on the essential components of UI and helps designers appreciate the significance of each element.

Material Design follows a mobile-responsive approach to design, prioritizing a user-first approach to improve accessibility and usability. It encourages designers to move beyond aesthetics and create an intuitive interface that offers an outstanding user experience.

Material Design is also highly flexible and offers a wide array of customization options. This allows designers to make their websites unique and tailor them to their specific needs.

Cons of Material Design

While adhering to design suggestions and best practices can be helpful, it is also crucial to maintain a degree of creativity and originality. Strictly following every suggestion without considering your own vision can lead to your design appearing similar to other websites.

Some experienced designers may find Material Design's focus on explicitly outlining every action and interaction to be somewhat tedious or repetitive. However, it's essential to keep in mind that this approach helps ensure consistency and accessibility in design, which is particularly beneficial for novice designers and users who may not be as familiar with digital interfaces.

Material Design was primarily created for app designers, which means that some of its components may not be as relevant to web designers. However, many of the principles and guidelines outlined in Material Design can be applied to web design, as well.

Web designers may need to adapt and modify certain parts of Material Design to suit their needs and account for the differences between app and web design. However, the core principles of Material Design, such as creating a consistent and intuitive user experience, emphasizing hierarchy and visual clarity, and prioritizing responsive design, can be highly valuable for web designers looking to create effective, user-friendly websites.

Enhance Your Website’s Aesthetics and User Experience Using Material Design

Despite its imperfections, Material Design can be utilized effectively with the right skills and tools. Furthermore, it promotes best practices in design, resulting in a highly functional and responsive interface.

At our award-winning web design company in Glendale, our designers possess a deep understanding of Material Design. They not only create designs from scratch but also employ the fundamental components of the language to achieve outstanding results.

As a division of Sofvue, LLC, and Data Titan, GlendaleBizz has been designing and developing mobile and web-based application systems since 2004. To date, we have designed and developed over $22MM in solutions for companies coast-to-coast, and across numerous business segments, and we have 80,000+ wireframes to back it up.  Some of our recent completed projects include SaaS and mobile app systems in the financial services sector, automotive manufacturing and health and fitness services. Give us a call to learn more about our recently completed projects, read recent letters of recommendation, and discuss how we can serve both your project and your company goals.

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