For some time now, Google Material Design is a fundamental that has been challenging us (designers and developers) to create a visual language for users that synthesizes the classic principles of good design with the innovation and possibility of technology and science. With that in mind, this post is a living guide that will be updated as we develop the Material Design tenets and specifics.
Undoubtedly, the one aspect of material design that everyone is talking about is animations. And for good reason: they’re gorgeous. However, it’s essential to understand that these animations and transitions aren’t present just for the glitz. Although a set of guidelines governs them, it’s clear that the goal is probably the best part—summarised by one of the material design principles.
The material design aims to create a visual language synthesizing classic principles of good design with the innovation and possibility of technology and science. As well as develop a single underlying system that allows for a unified experience across platforms and device sizes. Usually, mobile precepts are fundamental, but touch, voice, mouse, and keyboard are all ﬁrst-class input methods.
In other words, material design is an adaptable system of guidelines, components, and tools that support the best practices of user interface design. Backed by open-source code, Material streamlines collaboration between designers and developers and helps teams quickly build beautiful products. Let’s look at its fundamental element in website design and application development.
Understanding What Google Material Design Entails For Beginner Webmasters
To enumerate, Google Material Design is a computing language developed by Google to help designers and end users replicate Google’s work and explain why things in Google look and respond the way they do. At its core is a highly sophisticated and well-defined set of guidelines to better unite fundamental design principles with technology. Learn more about it in this video tutorial:
In short, material design is a system created by Google to help teams build high-quality digital experiences for Android, iOS, Flutter, and the web. Given their role, material components are interactive building blocks for user interface creation. These components include a built-in states system to communicate focus, selection, activation, error, hover, press, drag, and disabled states.
Moreover, these component libraries are available for Android, iOS, Flutter, the web, and other related computing elements. In large organizations with multiple cross-functional teams working on the same product, using some unique User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) design frameworks help ensure that the project teams can communicate and collaborate seamlessly.
Ultimately, this also helps to maintain the highest quality and consistency in web design workflow and app development project delivery. For your information, the material design components cover a range of interface needs per custom user experience.
- Display: Placing and organizing content using cards, lists, and sheets.
- Navigation: Allowing users to utilize components like navigation drawers and tabs.
- Actions: Allowing users to perform tasks using components such as the floating action button.
- Input: Allowing users to enter information or make selections using components like text fields, chips, and selection controls.
- Communication: An alert to users to critical information and messages using components like snackbars, banners, and dialogs.
On that note, various material design studies showcase the flexibility of Material Theming and components to create expressive and unique apps. As webmasters, we can use these studies to inspire our special design adoption of material theming and other applications and web-based components. They explore real-world design and product limitations by examining fictional applications.
Each study is designed with unique properties and use cases. Still, each study illustrates how multiple design decisions are made and how brands express themselves across various product categories, including retail, music, productivity, finance, on-demand services, and education. Be that as it may, Google Material Design for optimal web apps experience has three core principles:
A. Motion Provides Meaning
Motion can help move the user and create meaning; in particular, movement is instrumental in providing feedback to the user. For example, when you hold down an icon on Android, it pops out a little to tell you it’s ready to be moved. That slight movement is a great way to communicate with the user. That’s what material design aims for. Animations in Material Design also matter.
They are meant to provide feedback to the user for a change that has just occurred. The material’s behavior is governed by the rules of physics as if it existed in the real world. We must assume that the objects have some weight and mass to achieve this. This would mean that design objects cannot have linear velocity and must always move in a “slow out and slow in” manner.
While sometimes accelerating until peak velocity, then slowing down when they reach their destination. The only exception is when an object enters from outside the screen’s boundary since the assumption is that the layout object has already reached peak velocity before entering the user screen. It must still slow down gradually.
B. Material Is The Metaphor
Our on-screen design should be a metaphor for off-screen things, especially pen and paper. This means that on-screen buttons should look like real-life buttons, elements should have shadows, and “the fundamentals of light, surface, and movement” must be respected. Material design uses the idea that user experience is enhanced when elements on a screen mirror (to an extent).
As well as how those things look in the off-screen world. For example, a pop-up ad—should have a subtle shadow because all 3D objects have shadows. Any change in a material in a physical world would begin at the point of touch. Just imagine pressing the space key on your keyboard, for example. All transitions must start from the point of input. Naturally, this lends continuity to the user.
It also makes it feel natural. But the animation should have no intricate cuts; layouts should never suddenly appear. They could move and grow to gain prominence or slide in from a side. Again, this is about physics, where the material is the metaphor. Although parts of it, like the principle of material being the metaphor, even push back towards early-2000s skeuomorphic design.
C. Bold, Graphic & Intentional
Everything we design should be deliberate and significant—no more wishy-washy colors like beige. Be bold! Use magenta! The takeaway is that material design aims to guide designs that make sense immediately, are easy to follow (e.g., bold colors, headlines), and create a clear and uncluttered experience (for example, with negative space).
Continuing with the theme of motion conveying a message, how they are done also offers hierarchy. The first one is the recommended manner of bringing a grid into the picture: it represents an order to the grid. The second seems to convey that all the items in the grid are equally important. If that is true, the grid as a whole should be animated (such as sliding in from a side or expanding from a point).
That’s instead of each item in the grid individually expanding. Of course, the animation is also about delighting the user. Go beyond the generally prescribed rules and guidelines to set your work apart, and do things that would make a user say, “That is so cool!”
How Google Material Design Powers Up High-Quality Web User Experience
Now that we understand that material design is a set of guidelines for making technology more usable let’s put it into a larger design context. We feel that Google’s material design has proven overwhelmingly successful in improving user experiences. With a subtle shift away from the flat design aspects, the material design environment embraces that we all live in the off-screen world.
On that note, Material Design was inspired by the physical world. But this wasn’t an attempt to bring design back to the skeuomorphic days—it’s a metaphor. What Material Design did was move away from designing completely flat UIs to designing surfaces that were inspired by paper and ink. It Fixes the issue stemming from a lack of depth and other vital signifiers in flat design.
Most importantly, Google has created detailed guidelines that make it much easier for web designers and developers to deliver fantastic UIs–all with simplicity and finesse. First, material design is essential in the context of flat design. We’ve been talking about flat design, or elements of it, for years. Secondly, the material design represents the first significant shift away from that trend.
Many organizations and startups adopt one or more UX design frameworks to deliver successful projects. Design teams use these frameworks to guide decision-making and solve problems. At all costs, some design frameworks can help with project delivery, like Lean UX or Double Diamond, or achieve outcomes for a specific feature by applying the Fogg Behavior Model or Hooked Model.
- Think With Google
- Glue Lock
Usually, UI/UX Design Frameworks guide teams rather than force everyone into a specific way of thinking and working. Instead of telling team members what to do, the framework provides a systematic path to finding a solution. For instance, you can solve design challenges throughout product development with UXPin help–the most advanced code-based design and prototyping tool.
Getting Started With Material Design Foundations And Custom Layout Tools
The ability to systematically customize Material Design is to help reflect your product’s brand better. While a scheme represents selections or a subset of a single style, a theme describes a set of multiple classes and attributes in combination. Brands emphasize communication—their app prioritizes functional qualities, placing ease of use over design elements without practical purposes.
On the one hand, three general foundations that help empower Google Material Design include the Web, Flutter, and Android. Its Web is the component library for building applications in any web framework. The Material Web team is making significant changes to the codebase in preparation for adding Material Design 3 support. Follow the material-web repository on GitHub for updates.
On the other hand, Flutter is a framework for building beautiful, natively compiled applications from a single codebase—support is available for Material Design 3. At the same time, the Android library offers two components. Firstly, the MDC-Android is a modular and customizable code for building Android products—its support is also available for Material Design 3.
Secondly, there is also the Jetpack Compose, an Android’s modern toolkit for building native UI—its support is also available for Material Design 3. So, as you can see, you can easily and quickly implement Google Material Design with instructions for code and development, plus a few documentation guidelines here and there for MDC-Android, Flutter, Jetpack Compose, and the Web.
- (M1) Material Design 1: The first generation of Material Design, launched in 2014, is archived and accessible on this page for free.
- (M2) Material Design 2: The second generation of Material Design, launched in 2018, introduced Material Theming and Code for Material Components.
- (M3) Material Design 3: The third generation of Material, launched in 2021, includes the Material You features like dynamic color.
- The New Material You: This is the most recent generation with visual style and features embracing the personal and expressive needs of individual users, part of Material Design 3
Themes adjust global design styles for a given user context or preference, such as low light or high contrast. For example, a dark layout theme describes design decisions beyond color since adjustments to elevation and state are also integral to expressing a dark UI effectively. Unfortunately, Material Design isn’t as easy to recognize in web design for several reasons.
For one, it was always a more obvious approach when it’s done in mobile or web apps. Consider the Reply, a Material Design Study provided on its website—an email app that uses Material Design components and Material Theming to create an on-brand communication experience. Of course, from the image below, you can easily and quickly tell in a split-second that it’s Material Design.
Then, there’s the fact that Material Design 2.0 has allowed web designers to customize more, so you must be looking to notice the adherence to Material Design best practices. Most of all, there are principles. To enumerate, the material design foundations inform the basis of any excellent user interface, from accessibility standards to essential patterns for layout and interaction;
1. Material Design Product Accessibility
By default, accessibility is a foundational design value for Material. Understanding and anticipating a wide range of human experiences and disabilities establishes product foundations that prevent costly redesigns, reduce tech and design debt, and conserve resources upfront. Accessibility standards built into Material components provide a foundation for inclusive product design.
Understanding your product’s accessibility can enhance usability for all users, including those with low vision, blindness, hearing, cognitive, motor, or situational disabilities (such as a broken arm). Accessibility requirements and goals are documented across component pages and guides. The accessible design principles help anticipate, include, and respond to the needs of individuals.
They’re design, development, collaboration, and co-creation considerations that encourage inclusive and equitable outcomes. In component guidance, accessibility standards are implicit (built into design and code) and explicit (considerations are discussed where judgment is required.) For example, the dynamic color is designed to meet accessibility standards for color contrast.
The system of tonal palettes is central to making any color scheme accessible by default. In a dynamic color scheme, colors are paired based on distance in tone so that contrast requirements are met regardless of changing hues.
2. Material Design Layout Adaptiveness
Regarding adaptive design, the layout is defined as the visual arrangement of elements on the screen. For example, when creating new layouts, you must begin with a canonical layout rather than a layout grid. This ensures that your layouts can scale across devices and form factors. Still, it’s crucial to realize that window-size classes are opinionated breakpoints whose layouts need change.
Adapt layouts to compact, medium, and expanded window size classes. Also, consider how spacing and the parts of the layout work together. Material Design recommends you create layouts for the three window size classes: compact, medium, and expanded, which applies to Android and the Web. Still, you can use the form to direct attention to the action users want.
- Spacer: the space between two panes.
- Column: one or more vertical blocks of content within a pane.
- Fold: on foldable devices, a flexible area of the screen or, on dual-screen devices, a hinge that separates two displays.
- Pane: a layout container that houses other components and features within a single app. A pane can be fixed, flexible, floating, or semi-permanent.
- Margin: the space between the edge of the screen and any elements inside it.
- Multi-window mode: enables multiple apps to share the same screen simultaneously.
Regarding window size class, an opinionated breakpoint is the window size at which a layout needs to change to match available space, device conventions, and ergonomics. For instance, the below screenshot (Window) terms mean the whole screen. From left to right are columns, a middle fold with a spacer, a pane, and a right-side margin.
In other words, the layout basics help define the visual structure for a user to interface with your app, such as in an activity. Android provides a range of libraries, canonical starting points, and techniques to display and position content. The other elements to consider in adaptive design are spacing, layout parts, hardware considerations, and other related features.
3. Material Design Theme Customization
Dynamic color describes the capability of variable color sources to remap system UI and in-app color experiences. The color system enables apps to respond to user preferences and emotional conditions, such as wallpaper selection or in-app content (like music and video thumbnail art). Tone-based surface color roles have replaced the previous “surfaces at +1 to +5 elevation” approach.
The new color roles are not tied to elevation and offer more flexibility and support for color features. The diagram below shows shades of six tones—the tone on the left and right sides contrast enough to meet accessibility guidelines.
Another principle is customizing your material design components. Perse, customization creates unique branded products with familiar patterns and accessible interactions. It would be best to build a custom color scheme with the M3 color system to utilize personalization features. You’ll implement a custom theme for your app to respect a user’s device and app-level settings.
Especially to which user-generated color schemes can map. Additionally, using a custom theme ensures that your app has a fallback color scheme available for users who don’t enable dynamic color. M3 opens up new possibilities for brand colors and individual color preferences to converge in unique experiences. The color system embraces the need for color to reflect an app’s design sensibility.
While also honoring the settings that individuals choose for themselves. By enabling dynamic color, an app can retain the colors that define and differentiate a product while giving users more control over the styles that matter most to them.
4. Material Design System Tokenization
In this case, the Material Design Tokens are the building blocks of all UI elements—they are helpful items in designing, tooling, and coding. They represent the small, repeated decisions of a design system’s visual style. Meaningfully, they replace static values (like hex codes for color) with self-explanatory names and connect style choices that would otherwise lack a clear relationship.
As design systems evolve, specific values will change; thus, tokens help you track changes and ensure ongoing consistency across experiences. There are three kinds of material design tokens: reference, system, and component—material design currently uses reference and system tokens; component tokens are in development.
For example, suppose a designer’s mock-up and an engineer’s implementation reference the same secondary container color token. In that case, design and engineering can be confident that the same color will be used in both places. This consistency remains even when the color value assigned to a token gets updated. Generally, a material design token consists of two unique parts.
Consider the following:
- A code-like name, such as md.ref.palette.secondary90
- An associated value, such as #E8DEF8
But the token’s value can be one of several things: A color, a typeface, a measurement, or a custom design token. Because they are reusable and purpose-driven, they can define system-wide updates to themes and contexts. For example, they can be used to apply a high-contrast color scheme for improved visibility systematically or to change the type scale to make small text legible on TV.
Material design tokens generally help maintain alignment and consistency in a design system. With these material tokens, design decisions can be documented in a platform-agnostic and shareable format.
5. Material Design States Interaction
Chiefly, the States Interaction shows the status of a component or UI element. States have two visual indicators to ensure accessibility. The interactions can be combined with selection (such as selection and hover). In addition, you can easily and quickly apply various state interaction elements consistently across user interface components in material design to improve the experience.
In material design, state layers are a semi-transparent covering on an element that indicates its state. They provide a systematic approach to visualizing states by using opacity. A layer can be applied to an entire segment or in a circular shape, and only one state layer can be applied at a given time. Transitioning from an enabled style to a stateful style requires the addition of a state layer.
- Enabled: An enabled state communicates an interactive component or element.
- Disabled: A disabled state communicates an inoperable component or element.
- Hover: A hover state communicates when a user has placed a cursor above an interactive element.
- Focused: It communicates when a user has highlighted an element using an input method such as a keyboard or voice.
- Activated: An activated state communicates a highlighted destination—whether initiated by the user or by default.
- Pressed: A pressed state communicates a user’s tap.
- Dragged: A dragged state communicates when a user presses and moves an element.
As you can see from the image below, the state layer uses a fixed percentage of the opacity for each state. A state layer uses the color content uses (usually the on-color) and the percentage opacity for its respective state.
For example, if the enabled style uses secondary container color for the container and an on-secondary container for content, the state layer will be an overlay using the on-secondary container color. If the enabled style uses the surface role for the container and the primary color role for content, then the state layer will be an overlay using the primary color. There’re four states per value.
Such as follows:
- Hover +8% opacity
- Focus +12% opacity
- Press +12% opacity
- Drag +16% opacity
So, the state layer overlays with a fixed opacity for each state and uses the same color as the content. Unlike hover, focus, pressed, and dragged, which use state layers, the container and content of activated components change color directly. Activated elements use the secondary container color for the component container and adjust the content color to an on-secondary container.
The Material Design Pros And Cons For Beginner Webmasters To Know
Like its predecessors, Material Design had a big flaw that needed fixing. It was too black-and-white. Everything had been spelled out for designers, so it was like, “This is how you do good design. Follow my lead.” To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with working from a template or components. Its problem was that everyone was working from the same design system and rules.
In response to backlash from the designers (and indirectly from users who couldn’t tell apps and websites apart), Google unofficially released Material Design 2.0 in 2018. As for what Material Design looks like today, much of the original system is intact—there have been some updates for modernity’s sake. In addition, there’s a big emphasis on web accessibility and internationalization.
For example, there’s now a greater emphasis on white space, the usage of bottom navigation bars, and the inclusion of colorful icon sets. Oh, and dark mode is now available. So, Material Design is changing its guidelines along with the times. These days, Material Design 2.0 is best used as a toolkit. Thanks to the Material Design Revamp, the system environment is no longer restricted.
A design system is meant to be built for a brand so that its unique visual style can be developed, consistently applied and maintained. But everyone will jump on board when a design system becomes available to the public—to make building an app or website fast and pain-free. And, so, websites and apps all began to look the same way. Below are the pros and cons of material design.
The Material Design Pros:
- Web designers benefit from Material Design at all stages, whether it’s the foundation they base all their work around it.
- It’s a trustworthy resource they turn to occasionally and is responsible for further pushing websites in that direction.
- It provides a comprehensive overview of a UI’s critical components and behaviors, their value in design, and how to use them.
- Because of its start as a design system for Android apps, it’s a mobile-responsive approach to responsive design environments.
- It’s a user-first approach that’s solved many of its design predecessor flaws—like usability, legibility, and accessibility issues.
- Intentionally, designers can look beyond aesthetics and design for more intuitive interfaces and improved user experience.
- Google provides extensive documentation and support for developers and designers wanting to get more out of Material Design.
- The design system is much more flexible and empowering, so designers can take what’s good and make it their own.
The Material Design Cons:
- When adhered to too strictly, websites (and apps) are at risk of looking like one another.
- Some designers may feel it significantly discourages any freedom or creativity in design because it spells everything out for them.
- Still, some may be too intimidated to try using it (or any of its premade components) because of the emphasis on coding.
- The design system was initially aimed at app designers, so some parts aren’t relevant to web design.
- Equally important, if a designer can’t use an entire system, the resulting interface may feel missing something.
- Some design guidelines (like colorful interfaces, extensive use of icons, and animations) can create issues for website speed.
Sure, the design system and guidelines are still there. Still, many web resources enable designers to adopt whatever helpful method.
Why Design Framework Is A Big Deal For Best Web-Based Layout Experiences
For beginners, design frameworks are tools, workflows, protocols, and processes for design projects. Design frameworks provide teams with a systematic approach to solving problems and delivering projects. These design frameworks help with onboarding new hires or handing over responsibilities. New team members know where they are by following a familiar, structured process.
In particular, they can easily and quickly track where they are whenever they are involved in the new design process and how to complete the project. Given large organizations with multiple cross-functional teams working on the same product, a design framework ensures teams communicate and collaborate to maintain the highest quality and consistency in workflow and delivery.
Resource Reference: Top 7 Mobile And Web Application Frameworks For UI/UX Designers
Markedly, material design approaches design on screens from a much more tactile direction than other design languages or approaches have before. The material design guidelines place all objects on the screen within a 3D matrix rather than 2D. It’s important to realize that layout development objects—like a text box, for example—may occupy space in the material design world.
Secondly, for the first time, elements have become less flat and, as a result, have become easier to use—without losing any beautiful minimalism of flat design. Technically, a dedicated (material design studies) page explains the rationale behind each material design study, the choice of components, and how each study uses Material Theming. These principles are pretty straightforward.
- Expressive: To highlight the capabilities Material Theming has to offer, each Material Design Study expresses a different brand.
- Diverse: To ensure Material Theming and components address as many product needs as possible, the Material studies represent different types of products.
- Realistic: To replicate authentic products as closely as possible, each study identifies users, displays functional user flows, and applies real-world restrictions.
The above unique principles and approaches make Google Material Design both highly intuitive to users and easy to understand as a designer. Equally important, the other reason Material Design is a big deal is its ability to span screen sizes. When it was first announced in November 2014, we were still thinking pretty decidedly in three screen sizes–mobile, tablet, and desktop.
However, the material design was intended to be functional across a much more comprehensive range of screens, from watches to TVs, incorporating features such as screen-agnostic motions to inform users. Conversely, Material Design is about more than just adding layers or shadows to the design. It’s a super-comprehensive resource that sets the rules for a new design language.
Google Material Design is the standard for designing and creating websites and apps. It’s responded to old, user-unfriendly, and chaotic design styles and aims to bring order and unity to web design. Since its creation, the face of the web has undergone many changes. What essentially started as a Wild West of design innovation in the 1990s and early 2000s eventually made way.
Particularly by offering simpler, cleaner, and more predictable websites. Then, smartphones entered the fray, and massive changes were needed. Consequently, there’s been a seismic shift that apps and, eventually, websites underwent thanks to Google’s design system and language—Material Design. Initially introduced in 2014, this grid-based design system got widely adopted.
As such, it spread like wildfire and then took on a new life. But Material Design is much more comprehensive than most design systems. That’s because it wasn’t built for just one brand or project. Code-named “Quantum Paper,” was released as a design language for Android designers to create better apps through good design. Google also used it to overhaul the design of its apps.
This design style made UI elements look like the actual objects they were based on. The overall goal of Material Design was to enable designers to quickly build apps that were responsive, usable, and scalable. In 2014, the release of Material Design made huge waves across the design community—not just for Android development environments but for iOS application platforms and websites.
Top Frequently Asked Questions Answered
1. Why were material design environments created?
To understand how Material Design came to be, we must look at what came before it. It was around 2010 when skeuomorphism rose to prominence. This design style made UI elements look like the actual objects they were based on. We saw this a lot when it came to website backgrounds and icons. Skeuomorph UIs ended up proving to be too distracting because of their lifelike qualities.
What’s more, the realistic attributes of the design weren’t used for any reason other than to be trendy. The subsequent design trend, flat design, aimed to strip away the excess and superficiality of its predecessor. While flat design continues to persist today—since minimalism and good, clean design will never go out of fashion—it’s a significant flaw that needed material design to fix it.
2. What are the general features of material design?
As mentioned, material design is the standard for designing and creating websites and apps. It’s responded to old, user-unfriendly, and chaotic design styles and aims to bring order and unity to web design. Ensure that you learn how to use it from start to finish—since its creation, the face of the web has undergone many changes. Remember that material design is pretty standard.
It’s guided by print design methods—typography, grids, space, scale, color, and imagery—to create hierarchy, meaning, and focus that immerse viewers in the experience. These features enable an application platform’s or website’s users to respond more naturally to the UI as they understand how to touch and move around objects just as they would in the physical environment.
3. What are the UX frameworks in material design?
Generally, UX Design Frameworks are the standard approaches to a design project. These frameworks help in giving a structure to the design process and creating successful products and services. It must be noted that having UX design frameworks are, by no means, rules set in stone. Here are some of the most well-known frameworks: Net is Microsoft Framework and one of the most used.
Symphony: PHP free software project. Zend Framework: Open source framework for developing web applications with PHP web services. Common frameworks include Solid, BootStrap, React, Ember, and Vue. js, Svelte, and Angular. Used in database management, URL routing, security, website architecture design, server-side business logic implementation, and server handling.
4 Why are tokens necessary tools in material design?
In the past, Material Design styles were communicated through guidelines, design files, tools, and platform-specific component libraries. With design tokens, you can download, customize, and apply Material Design styles and integrate them across your design and development process. Usually, the material design tokens enable a design system to have a single source of truth.
They provide a repository for recording and tracking style choices and changes. Style updates will propagate consistently through an entire product or suite when using material design tokens for layout and implementation. Our digital material can expand and reform intelligently. Material has physical surfaces and edges. Seams and shadows provide meaning about what you can touch.
5. What are the material design tokens and color roles?
On the one hand, material design tokens enable flexibility and consistency across a product by allowing designers to assign an element’s color role in a UI rather than a set value. On the other hand, material design tokens act as a bridge between an element’s assigned function and the chosen color value for a role. The addition of material design tokens is pretty practical and essential.
As a result, designing for relationships of features is more fundamental than selecting specific colors. In a nutshell, Material Design still uses flat elements. However, those elements sit on various planes and can behave like paper and other objects in the real world, giving digital experiences a more lifelike “feel.” It brought additional, more meaningful changes to the design world, too.