Materially Different: How You Can Take Advantage of Material Design - WebINTENSIVE Software
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Sep 16, 2014 Materially Different: How You Can Take Advantage of Material Design

Material Design and the new Android L OS mean you should be considering material changes for your existing Android apps. Stat.

As my colleague Justin Cameron recently wrote, the much-heralded operating system upgrade for Android (Android L, version 5) “will make a sharp break from previous versions by leveraging ‘Material Design,’ Google’s new language for Android, the Web, and Chrome. Material Design will materially change not merely the OS’s look and feel, but also how interactions with apps work.”

What is Material Design?

Material Design is Google’s move to provide a standardized experience across mobile devices. It gives app creators a unified system that ties design elements to key features of physical materials, such as touch and interaction with other surfaces, in a way that is intuitive and familiar to users. Material Design also provides best practices on using animation and arrangement within apps to make app behavior meaningful and consistent.

Can I apply Material Design to my current (not L) Android app?

It’s possible to incorporate Material Design principles into your app, even if you don’t plan to specifically target Android L. But if you anticipate your users will adopt the upgraded OS, you probably want an app that is not only compatible, but that takes advantage of Material’s modern look in order to stay fresh.

Can I make do with my current app on Android L?

Possibly not, depending on specifications. Material Design seems to be changing some core approaches for how the OS interacts with apps. You should think about how your app responds to user input from a variety of sources, including touch, voice, mouse and keyboard. You will definitely want to conduct some testing to see if your current app has issues on Android L. Even if your functionality is not affected, bear in mind that a key factor in any app’s success is how comfortable and familiar it feels to users. Your app will need to align with the look and feel of the new operating system to help ensure a good user experience.

What’s the benefit of creating a version of my app that’s compatible with Android L?

KitKat (Android 4.4) currently has the lion’s share of the Android market. But as new devices are released, Android L and Material Design will become more prevalent. It may be a smart idea to get ahead of the curve, especially if your users tend to be trendsetters or early tech adapters.

How do I go about mapping out an upgrade for my app?

Here are the key steps:

  • Conduct a “functionality audit.” Identify which of your app’s features and functions will need to change to interact seamlessly with Android L.
  • Craft new wireframes. Material Design will drive new layouts which, in turn, will require re-thinking of where and how certain features will display in your app.
  • Consider design. Material Design’s new flat look and its use of splashes of bold color offer some exciting opportunities. This is not just about branding—these design elements can give a boost to your app’s usability, if applied with skill and care.

Sorting it All Out

Looking for a hand with all this? Just email me at ned@webintensive.com and let’s set a time to sort through what will work best for you.