Material Design: 5 Ways to Use It Effectively

How do you open a website on your phone or computer? By typing the website’s name in the search bar or giving a voice command. Is the website loading up fast or slow? And do you find it easy to explore the website? Material Design addresses all these concerns on a designer’s behalf from start to end. The design language ensures that every component behind the screen, like app icons, buttons, system sounds, etc., works in sync. But how is it all feasible? Let’s find out more.

Overview of Material Design

Material Design is an android-based language made and introduced by Google in 2014. A large percentage of web content, applications, and apps are made using Google’s design language. It is a set of guidelines that allows teams of web and app developers to create high-quality digital experiences across every platform, including Android, Flutter, iOS, and the entire web.

Birth of Internet’s Saviour

The idea was to build a “material” that could adapt itself to any platform. Before Material Design, skeuomorphism and Flat Design held the center stage, and these interfaces were not as user-friendly or had uniform design principles.

Remember all those 3-D looking app icons in an iPhone? While skeuomorphism gave them a realistic look, it affected the app’s functionality. It also made the Design seem to be jumping out at the users, making it look unpleasant.

Flat Design was functional but often left users in the dark about how to proceed further in an interface. The Windows 8 update made use of the flat Design.

Material Design took the concept of realism and functionality from these interfaces and merged them into one. As a result, every design element resembled and behaved like objects in the physical world while remaining confined in a virtual realm. Matias Duarte, VP of Design at Google, called it the “pen-and-paper” design approach.

Principles of Material Design

Material Design makes the interface more superficial, faster, cleaner, and intuitive. Hence, the interaction between user and system becomes more effortless.

It focuses on three basic principles to do so:

1. Material, a metaphor 

Material Design’s primary goal is to make the virtual world behave like reality. So, the elements in it should behave like natural objects too. If a user swipes left or right on their device’s screen, it should shift spontaneously. The components also appear in the same order across every device.

2. Bold, graphic, and intentional

A good design uses bold writing, colors, and proper imagery so that a user can understand its purpose at one glance. Design can also use surfaces and icons as cues to prompt users to take a particular action. While shopping from an online store, the aim is to get the users to purchase by using the “Add to Cart” button.

3. Motion gives meaning

One of the enticing features of our smart devices is the smooth motion present in them. It is informative, focused, and expressive and guides a user in an interface from one point to another.

Material Guidelines: A trademark for designing

The Material guidelines set by Google act as a standard for designing for every platform. It comes with various themes, tools, and guidance for designers and developers.

But they often stick to the default interface that Google provides, resulting in similar designs across the web. So here are a few points to make your design stand out from the rest:

1. Functionality over form

Just because the designs are delightful to look at doesn’t mean they always work correctly. Users might want an average-looking design that works well, but the vice-versa is never true.

2. Add your style

Designers can choose a default template and add their unique touch. The type, colors, and other foundations of Material Design should reflect the brand’s personality. 

3. Observe the competition

Is the visual design of your sites similar, or does it different enough to create a distinct brand experience? The site’s overall appearance and feel should not resemble the competition.

4. Understand the Material principles 

Once you review the Material Design philosophy, strip away unnecessary details. Seamlessly integrating the natural and digital world is at the core of Material principles. Make your own rules for what qualifies as “clean” and “simple” while keeping the essentials in mind.

5. Keep learning

Attend seminars, take courses, and read about UI and UX concepts rather than relying solely on Material design. Although wildly popular, Material Design will eventually evolve, so you mustn’t forget the core philosophy of creating great user experiences.

Is Material Design worth it?

Remember, Material Design is rigid only when designers fail to challenge the limitations and stay true to their brand. If you want to benefit from this widely-used, modern, and practical digital design philosophy, use the concepts to enhance your unique design style.

If you wish to learn more about building interactive interfaces, make sure to check out the Material Design course on ProApp. The course covers all the topics related to the design language, such as principles, tools, components, etc. Happy designing!


An avid writer with a flair for design.

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