With the announcement of Material Design in Android, it was evident that Google wanted to change things drastically in the area of design. UI design is an area, where Apple always had an upper-hand with the iOS. However, through Material Design, Google wanted to cover all the inconsistencies Android suffered, such as over the top use of hamburger menu, a dark theme looking unattractive, documentation absent at places, and a few others.
Material Design has actually been impressive in covering all the above flaws, by being a consistent language design, delivering rock solid guidelines, multi-colored appearance, is now lighter, and more. Still, the biggest question lingering my mind is, “Has Android really taken a lead with Material Design, when compared to iOS?” When asked, most designers supported Material Design. However, I have my own doubts. Let us clear them.
A few things common to iOS
To start things off, let us first see those 3 core principles on which iOS design relies upon: Depth, Deference, and Clarity.
• Depth is an area where both OS owns different approaches. On one hand, if iOS gives emphasis to gradients accompanied with a blurry appeal, Android on the other hand, emphasize more on a paper like appearance backed by drop shadows.
• Deference is an area wherein both OSes differ tremendously with each other. iOS believes in giving prime importance to content, while Android has its focus more on the tactile representation of the content. This leads to occupied real estate space on the left, and right hand side of the screen, in case of Android. In addition, overwhelming colors used in Material Design, fully empowers the actual content lying beneath. Inversely, what you see in iOS is content overpowering the design element, with UI color being neutral sticking to the context, and changes based on what content is accessed. In fact, vibrant colors only used for Call to Actions, leading to iOS winning user admiration and respect, by delivering remarkable and memorable user experiences (UX).
• Clarity is all about a striking contrasting effect, clean icons, and clear text legibility. Both iOS and Android users have different perspectives of grasping clarity, based on their familiarity with platform specific elements. This means, icons could be difficult to identify, when an Android user uses iOS, and vice versa.
Tab Bar V/S Hamburger Menu
This is a never-ending debate, practically having no conclusion. iOS hardly used Hamburger menu in its design, giving more preference to Tab bars. While Android is a big promoter of Hamburger menu, and relying less on Tab Bar style. Both have its share of advantages and disadvantages.
• Tab bars are wonderful for user engagement, since users need not to tap the Hamburger repeatedly, seeking out for submenus or options.
• Hamburger menus could be useful, if you want to show only important and relevant content to users, with secondary submenus and options hidden behind the icon.
Usage of color palette in the design
Material Design extensively promotes a broad range of colors. However, too much color options deprioritize other key elements within the content, and even have the tendency to replace or overpower the underlying content. Colors do form an important component of design, but they are not everything. A color has limitations when it comes to a range of meanings, as compared to content or images clearly explaining everything.
Colors do might play a role, but should not be the center-most front part of your UI design. An app icon does the branding, and not the color. A color speaks just 10 words, in comparison to a picture that speaks 1000 words. It is wise to have content and images, instead of using colors all around the place.
Material Design is ‘defined’ however, loses “creativity”
If you have a good look at the Material Design manual guide, you will see how everything is manipulated to have others follow a consistent approach in using colors. This includes a consistent structure followed, while using colors in drop shadows, and other effects.
A specific color palette is there for almost everything, where things can be customized combining different colors. In addition, it even provides an entire set of icons related to the system. Following a strictly confined approach is good for bringing overall consistency, however creativity gets limited, leaving no room for innovation.
So, where does material design come into play?
You might be thinking by now, Android’s material design does not seem to impress a lot when compared with iOS design. However, there are a few places, where material design shines astoundingly. By looking at the animation and color guides within Material Design, you will not be able to prevent yourself from praising Google, for raising the bar.
The concept of cards is definitely not to be neglected, because of a modular and flexible approach, letting users customize their own web and mobile desktop. Pastel colors were not that popular early on. However, flat UI design and material design approaches, made pastel colors highly desirable, combining beautiful typography with harmonious colors. In addition, if you look at the animations within Material Design, they are not just delightful, but even elegant for viewing.
There is no such thing as a perfect app design style
You will never ever find a design style to be perfect. We had a brief comparison between both the OS design styles. It is hard to tell which style outshines the other, and why. Both styles hold a prime importance in the minds of smartphone users. We had this discussion, not to discourage Material Design, but to clarify that both Android’s material design, and iOS design, are equal from all perspectives. Each one has its own share of strengths as well as weaknesses.
Supporting any one of them in particular, is unfair on the part of another. Henceforth, next time you think of creating an app, try to have it developed for both OSes, targeting users with different mindsets, behaviors, and expectations. When approaching iOS users, focus more on delivering content, using a simplistic style, offering minimal design elements. While Android users need more of a jazzy card based material design style, using maximal design components, and having less focus diverted towards the content, not neglecting relevancy factor.