When asked the question “what is best thing about Android?” most people say its features and customisability. Very rarely does anyone say its design.
On the 25th of June 2014 Google announced its new design system Material Design. Google sold Material Design as a design system that it would use to unify its platforms vastly different designs. It was Google laying down some design foundations that it wanted developers to follow. However, 3 years down the line and Android O is not very different to Android Lollipop, the first iteration of the new Material Design Android. This is because of Google neglect to pay attention to design both for Android and Google’s own apps.
Why has this happened? Most apps today do have Material Design in them. But, the elements that Material Design are only the bare bones. Basic layouts, basic typography and etc. There are very little apps out there that follow the Material Design guidelines closely. The ones that do have amazing experiences because of it.
This has happened because Google doesn’t dedicate time to developing good looking visuals that meet the Material Design guidelines. This is evident in how little attention Google has given to the platform and its own apps in terms of design.
You could make the argument that it takes time to develop good visuals but if Apple can manage to do it in one year Google should be able to do it in 3. When Apple launched iOS 7 with its new look and feel all of the apps were re-designed to meet the requirements of the guidelines. Again, this year, Apple is introducing some pretty big changes in its apps in terms of visuals and iOS 11 will ship with them straight out of the box. This is because Apple gives as much attention to design as it does to feature development. This is what makes the iOS experience so much more fluent and coherent than the Android one.
Above is a video that Google showed at 2014’s Google I/O. I understand that usually apps don’t turn out like their concepts but none of Google’s apps look anything like their concepts in the video. Showcases the problem.
With resources for developers to use, guidelines to follow, and apps to take inspiration from, Material Design is in a much better state than it was 3 years ago. However, the problem still looms with Google. Google needs to pave the way before most apps follow.
First, Google needs give Android itself a lot of attention in terms of design. It is too late for them to do so with Android O but it is the opportune time for them to do so for next year’s Android P. Making Android follow the Material Design guidelines will make a massive difference in user experience. The basic principles of Material Design are already in Android O but they need refining. The small changes make the biggest differences. When tapping on something, instead of it cutting to the next page, the new page should come in from the right if you’re going to a new screen and should leave from the right if you’re leaving a screen. Something very basic but the effect is huge. iOS has little to no jump cuts in transitions and it makes a big difference in user experience. Small things like this are what will take Android to the next level, improve user experience, and make it even more competitive with iOS.
Once Android follows Material Design closely Google can work on their own apps to ensure they follow the guidelines closely too. Once both Android and Google’s apps follow the guidelines closely developers will see the effect design can have and what their apps can look like with some attention and will follow in Google’ footsteps.
Google has the resources to make Android a beautiful operating system and it definitely has the best design guidelines to follow. Android is very fleshed out in terms of features, performance, and customisability but not in terms of design. I hope Google changes this with next year’s Android.
What do you think? Do you agree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section down below.