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The Rules of Material Design

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Material Design has become the standard for designing and developing Android applications and many websites. Before you can get the best results from Material Design, though, you need to learn a few rules that will improve your work’s consistency and help it operate on the Android platform.

You don’t have to accept the following as definite rules that you must follow. You can break most of the rules of Material Design while building terrific products. Overall, though, you and your users will have better experiences when you don’t deviate too far from the following guidelines.

Emphasize functionality before you focus on form

Do you feel a little argument brewing between your graphic designer and your developer? That can happen when you start using Material Design. Material Design makes it easier than ever to add responsive animations, transitions, and other effects that thrill designers. These components can add to an app’s functionality. Using too many of them—or using them in the wrong ways—can have the opposite effect.

You want an app that looks terrific, but you can’t sacrifice functionality in favor of form. When in doubt, side with your developer. A beautiful app might attract a lot of users, but they will abandon the product when they discover that it doesn’t work well.

Rely on the types of layouts that users expect to find

Material Design can tempt you to try some crazy things. It doesn’t take long to experiment, so why not build a layout unlike anything anyone has seen before?

Adrian Henry, found at Hungry Turtle Code, understands that impulse. “The urge is to always break the rules slightly to appear different,” he says. Going too far, however, “is just a jarring experience” for the user. Users “should know exactly where everything is and intuitively understand the UX flow.”

You can take a creative approach without breaking the rules of Material Design. Get feedback from as many people as possible, though. Hopefully, one of them will tell you when you need to rein in concepts that feel counterintuitive to new users.

UXPin makes it easy for you to get feedback before you release your product. When you create a link to your prototype, you make it possible for people to interact with it and leave feedback. You might feel disappointed when you learn that your favorite idea drives people mad. It’s better to discover the truth now than after you’ve released your app to the world.

Take advantage of interactive features

Keeping the first rule in mind, use Material Design to add more interactive features to your apps. Users tend to prefer products that respond to motion. When you glide your finger across a smartphone’s screen, you expect the page to turn. When you tap an icon, you want it to open for you.

Dig deeper below the surface, though, to discover ways that you can make your apps even more interactive. Look for opportunities to add meaningful micro-interactions. Micro-interactions like tapping notification alerts keep people involved and interested. Users might only need the “big” interactive features every few minutes. They can use micro-interactions multiple times a minute, though. It becomes a conversation between the app and the user.

Tap into Material Design libraries that make your work easier

Designers often enjoy taking time to create unique icons and interactions. It’s why they became professional designers! Not every part of your product needs a brand new design, though. Sometimes, you’re just wasting time “reinventing the wheel.”

Besides, many icons have universal meanings that help users understand how to use products. Taking your designs too far could confuse people.

UXPin gives you access to a library with more than 600 Material Design icons. Icons that indicate common functions like “share,” “charge,” “add to cart,” and “volume” don’t need new designs. At least they don’t when you already have a library full of attractive icons that users expect to find when they use your apps.

Track your metrics to make sure products work as intended

Ideally, Material Design will help your team save time and develop better products that people look forward to using. Do you get those results? You can’t answer that question until you start tracking key performance indicators (KPIs).

Some of the most important metrics that you should track include:

  • User growth rate
  • Mobile downloads
  • Installations
  • Uninstallations
  • Crashes
  • Retention rates
  • Session length

These pieces of information tell you a lot about how people use—or don’t use—your apps.

A high user growth rate probably indicates that you have a popular app that interests people. A lot of mobile downloads suggest the same, but it doesn’t mean much unless users follow through by installing the app on their devices.

Do users uninstall your product shortly after downloading and installing it? That’s likely a sign that they didn’t get what they expected.

Do people use your app for long periods at a time and return often? That probably means you’re doing something that your customers love.

If you discover a lot of crashes, it’s time to look under the hood of your app to see how you can improve its functionality. Users won’t tolerate frequent crashes. Solve the problem quickly or expect them to abandon your product and move on to the next thing that interests them.

Pay attention to user feedback

Tracking metrics can tell you a lot about what does and doesn’t work in your Material Design app. You don’t always have to rely on the numbers, though. People will tell you what they love and hate about your work.

When someone posts feedback about your app on Google Play, take time to read the response, think about what the person wrote, and respond kindly for their help. You might get a profane-laden review that makes your whole team upset. It doesn’t matter. Learn from that user’s frustration so you can improve your app. Other users will appreciate your work.

Keep learning about Material Design to stay ahead of trends

Google constantly improves its products and services, so you can expect Material Design to evolve over the years. Visit the Material Design website often to see how it has changed.

You don’t have to read every document on the website. That would take far too much time. You should, however, take time to look at examples that Google chooses to showcase Material Design on the web. Pay close attention to what these examples show. A keen eye will help you stay ahead of emerging trends.

Choose designing and prototyping tools with Material Design in mind

Adopting Material Design doesn’t mean that you can stop using design and prototyping software. It means that you need to make sure you choose tools that work in coordination with Material Design.

UXPin encourages designers to embrace Material Design. With UXPin prototypes, you can even test your designs before you finalize your products. An interactive prototype gives you an opportunity to test every aspect of your product before you hand it over to your boss or client.

Try UXPin for free to see how it can help you create prototypes and test your ideas. Thanks to its real-time collaboration features, you can even explore concepts with other designers.

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