Saturday, 3 January 2015

Windows had 'Material Design' before Google

Material Design in 'Inbox'
'Material Design' is a phrase coined by Google which is the name for the design language they implemented throughout their native apps and websites with the release of Android 4.5 (Lollipop). The diverse spectrum of Google services, from YouTube to Google Drive, have been soaked thoroughly in Google's new cleaner look which makes the services easier to use, more asthetically pleasing however, consequently, all the apps now look like clones of oneanother. This can be a positive and a negative - however not a debate that I'm going to delve into in this post.

If app developers wish to use aspects of material design they can find extremely strict guidelines on what material design is, and what material design isn't, on the Google design website. And although this idea of all apps having a same feel and familiar interfaces may seem like a new idea, Microsoft has been doing it since 2010 when Windows Phone 7 was launched.

The Windows Phone SDK for developers is debatably restrictive - maybe less so now compared to what it was a few years ago. However it was restrictive so that all of the apps, with the exeption of games, gave the user a sense of familiarity so that they could navigate brand new apps they've installed without overthinking. This design language was called 'metro'... later to be replaced with 'modern'.

The 'People Hub' on Windows Phone 7
Metro/modern had live tiles instead of app icons, panes inside the app which users could swipe between and often titles which wouldn't fit on one screen.

The problem with 'metro' is, app developers like to be creative with their apps and give them unique design and feel. The Windows Phone SKD didn't offer them space to be creative. This might be one of the reasons that the Windows Phone app marketplace is only tenth of the size of the Apple App Store.

Going back to Google's design language, 'material design' has a higher chance of sucess compared to 'metro' because, not only has Android got 29x more users than Windows Phone thus more potential customers for app developers, 'material deisgn' isn't being pushed upon app developers; if they want to imploment 'material design' in their own apps, they can; however if they'd rather come up with their own look, they can do that as well. Google is offering developers freedom of choice, something which Microsoft might have crucually forgotten to do.