Last week was the Google I/O, the most important event of the year for many developers. Among the many new things announced was the new version Material Design (sometimes called Material Design 2). It keeps most of the principles of the first version, while refining it and adding much more room for customization, called material theming. Apparently, many people felt too constrained by Material Design, so Google had to do something about it.
The new Material Design website is even more complete than before. Seven applications (called Material studies) have been created to showcase the new possibilities of this version, and they are used through the specifications as examples. I really like what’s possible to do, even if I’m pretty sure most of it was already Material-compliant. Overall, most of these apps look great (especially Shrine in my opinion).
We also have a bunch of new/changed components, like different types of buttons, FAB, or the bottom app bar. It all makes sense, and again, most of it is mostly refinements over what was already existing.
Each component of the guidelines now has details on its design principles, examples from the studies, metrics, and links to the implementation on Android, iOS, Web and Flutter (when available). I like the fact that you have all the information you need on a single page, and don’t have to search the link to technical documentation for your platform.
There are also some new tools for designers if you’re using Sketch. Too bad if you’re on Windows. However, it seems Google has created its own Zeplin-like tool, called Gallery. Give it a try!
Overall, these new possibilites for customization are nice, but maybe it’s too much…
What’s less cool (in my opinion)
When Material Design came out, we finally had a way to have consistency across all Android apps. Yes, a lot of apps looked the same, probably because they were not designed by a designer, but by developers who blindly followed the specs. And I think that’s fine.
This new version still allows that level of consistency, but at the same time, you have more room to do whatever you want. That means you can put a toolbar on the top of the screen, or at the bottom, and put the back arrow somewhere on the screen, where you want… You’re not supposed to have two FABs on the same screen, except that actually you can. And you can have menus on the bottom of the screen AND the top. For me that may lead to a lot of confusion for users.
I guess I would have liked a way for designers to have more room, while still having stronger constraints for developers.
Regarding the Google Tasks app and its iOS look, I’ve found that it doesn’t respect some guidelines of the specs. So I’m going to consider it an experiment, and not a preview of what’s coming next for Google apps.
My guess is that we’re going to see some amazing app designs in the coming months, with some designers unleashing their creativity with material design. On the other hand, I’m also pretty sure we’ll end up with more badly designed apps as well, with puzzling behaviors and incoherent screens. Anyway, it’s a very exciting time to work in mobile app development, and I’m going to spend a huge amount of time designing new apps with material theming!