Material Design in Android

Implementing Material Design in Your Android app

One of Android’s main selling points is its flexibility, be it the endless ways you can customize the in-app experience or the freedom to use whatever hardware you prefer. While that variety gave developers a ton of freedom to explore their creativity, a lack of universal standards isn’t necessarily a good thing for the end-user.

While top-tier developers can certainly whip up some amazing apps without a rulebook to keep them in check, most talent doesn’t fall into that category. As a result, apps don’t meet certain standards. These standards may be related to usability issues, an outdated aesthetic, or a confusing interface. Alone or combined, these factors can undermine the entire mobile experience.

Many developers and app designers feel that iOS has the better approach and use material design as a way to bring the best parts of the Apple experience to the Android user and create a unified look and feel that spans both ecosystems.

For example, Google apps like Google Drive, Google Maps, and Gmail have slowly evolved into something that resembles the material design style used in iOS applications, allowing developers to release Android and Apple apps that offer the same look and feel, regardless of device.

If you want to see your app dominate the Play store, you’ll need to create an app with a clean interface, intuitive navigation, and a style that reflects modern sensibilities, similar to Google or Apple.

Android material design (and iOS design standards, too) helps designers and developers avoid friction and fragmentation by providing a clear roadmap for creating apps that users will not only adopt but stick with long term.

In this post, we’ll look at the role of material design in Android development and how it helps developers create a cohesive experience across various screen sizes, devices, and between existing apps.

What is Android Material Design?

Android material design is a design language/comprehensive style guide developed by Google to create a unified user experience across a range of apps, devices, and platforms, similar to the cohesive experience you’d typically find on Apple devices.

material_design1Material design provides guidelines for everything from fonts and grids to visuals, motion, and interactions, serving as a comprehensive structure for applying known best practices. At a base level, material design is a framework for making apps homogenous–though the point isn’t simply to follow what everyone else is doing, just because.

The idea is, that by highlighting the connection between good design and the opportunities made possible through innovative tech, developers have a faster path to success.

Essentially, what material design represents for developers is something like the SEO best practices that marketers use to create content for the web–outlining all of the “little things” that users respond to. For example, bold graphics are known to inspire action, motion and illumination generate interest, and the responsive touchscreen interface makes it easy for users to “take the next step.”

In addition to Google, Android also provides guidelines for material design. They include the elements and specifications you need to follow as you build your app, including themes, widgets, and APIs for custom shadows and animations. Material design is available in Android 5.0 Lollipop and above but can be supported on earlier versions with appcompat libraries.

Who Uses Android Material Design?

Obviously, the most notable example of “who’s using material design” is Google.

Gmail, Google Drive, Google Maps, and YouTube all reflect current material design standards. Chances are, you noticed its recent multi-colored refresh.

Outside of Google’s massive ecosystem, there are countless examples of apps developed in Android material design. WhatsApp, Foursquare, BiteSMS marketing are some of the best-known examples, though efforts like The Material Design Awards surfaces the best realizations of material design and adds tutorials to its developer library so that readers can recreate them at home.

Material Design Helps Bridge the Android-iOS Gap

If you’re developing an Android app, there’s a good chance you’re also working on its iOS counterpart. Material design allows you to keep your apps consistent across Android and iOS–and Google even offers some ideas and guidance for material design for iOS.

Still, it’s important to understand the differences between Android and iOS. There’s the navigation, the back button mechanics of Android’s mobile hardware. There’s also the way iOS presents surfaces and depths, supports interactions and gestures, and arranges elements in a layout grid.

Again, Apple’s minimalistic approach to design has long been favored by a large share of users–and if you want to do something similar with your Android app, material design can help you tap into that simplicity and usability your consumers crave.

That said, you need to plan carefully or you may risk losing users for good. Often, when you take Android material design apps to the iOS platform, you may need to re-create certain functions to fit iOS requirements and meet user expectations, which in many cases, are very different from what the average Android user wants in an app.

Apple, of course, provides its own detailed guidance for app design on iOS.

Note that, while it is possible to implement material design in iOS, we don’t recommend it unless you can guarantee that the user experience is consistent with iOS guidelines. The subtle differences between OSs can add friction to the iPhone experience. For example, formatting issues may cause users to feel disoriented as if they had been tossed into a different digital environment.

Final Thoughts

Implementing Android material design in your app isn’t especially hard.

All you need to do is make sure that the code, content, and all other Android design elements fit the standards and specifications.

Easy, right?

Not so fast… While material design is more accessible than many programming languages and development frameworks, it’s not something you can learn in an afternoon.

Expect to spend a significant amount of time doing research, reviewing existing apps, and figuring out how you can give room to your creativity and avoid building an app that looks like every other one.

While learning Android app design is a worthy goal, it might be more cost-effective (and easier) to partner with an experienced team that understands the nuances of material design and how to get the right results.

Tiempo’s high-performing teams are well-versed in both iOS and Android design guidelines and follow proven best practices for quickly designing and delivering apps that meet customer needs and exceed expectations.

Contact us today to learn more about what Tiempo can do.


Or, instead of acquiring the app design expertise for both the Android and iOS platforms, it might be easier and less costly to have nearshore developers at Tiempo perform the work for you. We are familiar with both design environments, and we have our best practices for creating apps quickly and ensure they meet customer needs and user expectations. Feel free to send me a note at mrabago@tiempodevelopment.com or reach Tiempo at contact@tiempodevelopment.com. If you like, you can also read our whitepapers to get a better idea of how we work, and review customer case studies to learn about some results we help companies achieve that way.

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