Material Design Levels the Field for Android App Developers

April 14, 2016 - 3 minutes read

material design android app developer

When most mobile app developers think of cutting-edge design, we think of one brand: Apple. For years, the company’s iconic flat UI has been the touchstone for great interface design.

Thanks to Google’s heavy involvement with the Android operating system, however, that association may see a challenge over the next few years. Android Lollipop has brought material design to the forefront, and many users are finding the design intuitive, clear, and classy — a “just as good if not better” alternative to iOS.

Some of material design’s strongest elements are those that differ most from iOS’s flat UI: card-based information, notification drawers, and a muted, textured color palate. Will flat and material design standards grow closer or farther apart over the next couple years? And more importantly for mobile app developers, how will the dichotomy between Apple and Google design standards impact user expectation for mobile app interfaces?

Tabs vs. hamburger menus

Hamburger menus get a lot of grief from Chicago iPhone app developers. We tend to shy away from them (outside contexts where the center screen should be the only action), but data shows that they aren’t as confusing or off-putting to users as techies might expect. The important thing is that they are used sparingly, and that key elements are on-screen when the user needs them to eliminate unnecessary user actions.

One way that material designers works around this is through the use of floating icons (think the “+” icon in most Google cloud apps), although data tends to support Apple’s tabbed menu solution.

Cards vs. bleeds

Animations play a key role in cueing user actions, and the use of cards lets Android app developers lay out their screen flows almost literally as they would on a table top or whiteboard. Depending on the UX designer’s skill, the resulting app interface can be surprising and intuitive — or confusing and difficult.

For iPhone app developers, Apple’s blurred photo backdrops and subtle color schemes may be preferable. For Android wear users, however, the use of bold colors and intuitive animations makes a lot of sense.

You say tomato, I say tomato

Ultimately, flat design and material design have more in common than Google or Apple might like to admit. Both favor pastel colors, and both are increasingly animation-heavy. Whether mobile app developers and designers can expect a universal UX language in the future is a question that only time can answer.

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