back to article I/O: New Google design language will RULE OVER 'DROIDS

Google has unveiled a new look for the next version of Android, Android L, dubbed "Material Design". So what, you ask? Well, Android runs on around 70 per cent of the world's smartphones. Material Design specifies the UX (user experience) for all things Google and “smart” - from the outline to the fundamentals. Material …

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  1. Diogenes

    For all the metro haters

    Google has even wrapped Material Design in the kind of language Redmond used to dress up Metro. Material Design even seems to look like Metro, with purple and green colour bands in flat, 2-D boxes full of text and pictures.

    <Nelson Munz> Ha Ha </Nelson Munz>

    1. FrankAlphaXII
      Meh

      Re: For all the metro haters

      Metro or whatever the fuck Microsoft calls it actually works well for Windows Phone. Windows 8, not so much. What sealed it in my case was my initial adventure with Windows 8's preview refusing to boot from USB or DVD when it came out, and then the sequel to that adventure happening after buying a new laptop with Windows 8 pre-loaded and attempting to use it, but giving up after two hours of solely attempting to hunt down the control panel. I never did find it. I upgraded to Windows 7 very quickly, within the first six hours of owning that computer.

      Windows 8 could have been really good, like WinPho is, but Microsoft drank the same stupid fucking Kool-Aid that the GNOME 3 and Unity developers are twacked out of their minds on about desktop and laptop users wanting the same thing as a tablet or phone user. At least with the Linux DEs you have choices for the most part instead of third-party registry and UI hacks to make your computer actually function as it should.

      The thing is that Windows Phone is an incredibly smooth and uncluttered phone OS to use once you learn its quirks, and the same design would probably work well for Android. It also might seriously piss off long term Android users who, if they wanted WinPho would have bought WinPho. Plus I don't see various Android vendors who have their own frontends like Samsung being especially thrilled at the prospect Google has on the table here.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        @FrankAlphaXII

        Have an upvote sir, I agree about WinPho, it's actually quite nice. As always, shame about the dearth of apps.

      2. Mark .

        Re: For all the metro haters

        The start menu is significantly different, and plenty of people prefer the old one to the new version. But although a side-benefit was them making a consistent interface, imo it still works as a UI in its own right. I like the new Windows start menu ("screen") on a non-touch laptop - now I have the fullscreen being made use of, rather than a postage stamp sized window in the corner. Remember, way back in Windows 95, the point of the start menu was to cascade, so that submenus opened, and took up the full screen. Without XP or Vista (I forget which), they made it remain small, stuck in the corner, with the submenus opening in the same space.

        In fact, I'd probably like this less on a Windows Phone, because you don't have the screen size to make use of it, so can only fit a few tiles. There it's better to have something that allows hierarchical menus, like you can with the Android homescreen (well, one level of hierarchy anyway) (and was the case with Symbian and feature phones years before that). But then again, I haven't tried it, and it's probably what I'm used to :)

        "It also might seriously piss off long term Android users who, if they wanted WinPho would have bought WinPho."

        Indeed, I think this is the key - people get annoyed with change. If Windows 8 had thrust the OS X UI onto people, it wouldn't be (as much as many journalists seem to think) "Oh yes, this is much better", but even more of an uproar - either because they don't like change, or if they wanted OS X they would have bought it. Indeed OS X launches things by clicking on icons, that doesn't mean it was made for touchscreens, but would still annoy those who wondered where their start menu had gone.

        I think MS should have done more to keep in options to keep things somewhat the way they were (similar to how XP could switch back to 2000s menu), but whether a particular UI is good or bad, or works better on a phone or laptop or not, comes down to preference. Anyhow, any half-decent OS lets you change things, and it's a 5 minute job to put the start menu back anyway for those who prefer.

        1. Fred Goldstein

          Re: For all the metro haters

          Now you remind me of why I have Classic Shell implementing the Win2000 start menu on a Win7 Pro system. But the Win7 native menu (I think similar to XPs) is not awful. It doesn't use up screen space but it is not hard to use.

          Metro's start screen, on the other hand, is just hopeless. It commits a deadly sin -- it switches context, turning off everything on screen just to get to the start buttons. This is tolerable in a single-tasking environment, like say a phone, but when you have a large desktop screen, you're often starting and stopping multiple programs at once, and you don't want to lose them off screen just to do that. It's a single-tasking paradigm applied to a multitasking world, and fails badly.

        2. Someone Else Silver badge
          Facepalm

          @Mark -- Re: For all the metro haters

          Remember, way back in Windows 95, the point of the start menu was to cascade, so that submenus opened, and took up the full screen.

          Remember back to Windows 2, there was this thing called Program Manager, which gave you a full screen of icons (shortcuts) to your applications. What was old still sucks, which is why they changed it is new again.

        3. Keith Smith 1
          Thumb Down

          Re: For all the metro haters

          People do not get annoyed with "change". They get annoyed with "change just for the sake of change".

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: For all the metro haters

            >>People do not get annoyed with "change". They get annoyed with "change just for the sake of change".

            Not true. Win95 was a massive step up from W3.11 but loads of people found it hard to adapt. If you've been using the same paradigm a long time, or even that paradigm is all you know, change is hard. If the W95/XP/7 approach is synonomous with "how computers work" to you, which is entirely possible considering how long that dynasty ruled, ANY new approach will seem tricky.

            1. Bassey

              Re: For all the metro haters

              "Win95 was a massive step up from W3.11 but loads of people found it hard to adapt"

              That's true. I remember huge swathes of angry articles being written about the Win95 Start menu. The most poisonous vitriol was reserved for the fact that the "Power" button was under the start menu so that, in the words of many more than one magazine piece, you have to press start to stop.

              This, of course, carried on all the way through to Windows 7 until it was changed in Windows 8 - when lots of column inches were taken up with how impossible it was to find the power icon to shut down your PC because it wasn't where it should be. I.E. it wasn't under "Start".

              People DO hate change. It is a simple fact of human nature.

              There is a heritage village near me. It has an old-style red phone box. There was a proposal to remove it but people were up in arms. "It's part of our heritage. It's been there for fifty years. How dare they?" etc. etc.

              Even once it was pointed out that the phone box had only been there about 15 years having replaced a Green phone box (that HAD been there 50 years) and that people had hated the introduction of the red phone box at the time as it was "Destroying our heritage" - people still moaned and the phone box has had to remain.

              People are stupid.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: For all the metro haters

          The start menu is significantly different, and plenty of people prefer the old one to the new version. But although a side-benefit was them making a consistent interface, imo it still works as a UI in its own right. I like the new Windows start menu ("screen") on a non-touch laptop - now I have the fullscreen being made use of, rather than a postage stamp sized window in the corner. Remember, way back in Windows 95, the point of the start menu was to cascade, so that submenus opened, and took up the full screen. Without XP or Vista (I forget which), they made it remain small, stuck in the corner, with the submenus opening in the same space.

          It started with Vista, but at least there you could opt for the old Windows 95-style menu. That was the one and only good thing about Vista over Windows 7: a start menu that could display a hierarchy. Something the clown-pants UI cannot do.

          Of course, they've tried something like the Windows 8 start screen before.

      3. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: giving up after two hours of solely attempting to hunt down the control panel.

        From the start screen type "cont", it's at the top of the list. Or click on "search" in the charm bar and type the same thing, though that's a bit more effort. If in two hours you hadn't found this I'm not sure Windows 8 is to blame.

        1. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: giving up after two hours of solely attempting to hunt down the control panel.

          >From the start screen type "cont"

          I guess I should have turned on voice recognition. It's almost exactly what I said when first confronted by the need to uninstall some adware from a friend's Windows 8 machine.

          1. Don Jefe

            Re: giving up after two hours of solely attempting to hunt down the control panel.

            Type 'cont'? Cont? What the fuck is cont. If Clippy were around he'd want to help you write a letter to you ex-girlfriend if you typed cont.

            Abbreviated/shortened/concatenated function controls have always been a bad idea for the general users of anything. It's one thing for trained, experienced users to use partial words and abbreviations, but even then it's considered bad practice as it limits business prospects and requires additional investment if cultural or business rules make one groups abbreviations offensive or contradictory.

            In my field abbreviated function names is generally considered dangerous anymore. Everything used to be like that, but it meant your equipment required new operators to undergo hundreds of hours of training if they changed employers or you bought new equipment. Otherwise people could quite literally be torn limb from limb or destroy the workpiece and thousands of dollars.

            The tech field doesn't even hold a candle to large scale manufacturing as far as efficiency and speed are concerned. Mostly due to the fact that manufacturing is simply a lot older and more developed. But the point is that if manufacturing doesn't see a benefit it abbreviated function controls then there's no advantage to using them. Therefore, they shouldn't be used.

            1. Kristian Walsh

              Re: giving up after two hours of solely attempting to hunt down the control panel.

              Type 'cont'? Cont? What the fuck is cont. If Clippy were around he'd want to help you write a letter to you ex-girlfriend if you typed cont.

              You appear to be unfamlliar with the concept of type-ahead. Let's take it step by step.

              If you're not already looking at the Start screen, press the Windows key to open it.

              Type "C", the search panel at the right shows a list of every application beginning with C

              Type "O", the right hand of the screen shows a shorter list, each of whose names contain "CO"

              Type "N", the list shrinks again to only those whose names contain "CON"

              Type "T", now there is only one possible application whose name contains "CONT", and it's the "Control Panel"

              Press Return and it launches, or click/tap its entry in the search results. Simple.

              You may of course keep typing until you've spelled out exactly what you need, and only then launch it, but the poster wanted the quickest way to launch Control Panel from the start screen, and that's probably it. (Those who don't believe in all that modern crap will note that this is precisely the same sequence of keystrokes needed to perform this task on Windows 7)

              The lack of this easy way to launch an application is something that annoys me when I use other people's Macs (on my own Mac, I use DragThing which allows typeahead launching of items in its docks)

              1. Don Jefe
                Happy

                Re: giving up after two hours of solely attempting to hunt down the control panel.

                Yes, I realize what he was getting at. Google's version of that is how I discovered watermelons are berries and that Martha Washington was actually a man. But constructing a vehicle for a Clippy joke isn't nearly as easy as it looks, you've got to take advantage of those opportunities when they are presented.

                Abbreviated controls are still dumb though :)

              2. DeafGoose

                Re: giving up after two hours of solely attempting to hunt down the control panel.

                You can do the same on a mac via spotlight

              3. JDX Gold badge

                Re: giving up after two hours of solely attempting to hunt down the control panel.

                You can even type the specific thing you want to do on the control panel IIRC.

                Or of course click on the IE/FF/Chrome logo and type "where is the windows 8 control panel" and hit enter.

            2. Fred Goldstein

              Re: giving up after two hours of solely attempting to hunt down the control panel.

              DEC had a better answer about 40 years ago. Commands in DCL were full words, like "DIRECTORY" and DELETE, but you never had to type them out; you only needed enough letters to make them unambiguous. (It was thus DIR and DEL to practically everyone.) The universe of commands was limited, as starting a program required the lengthy invocation command RUN, not just typing of the program's name.

              TENEX (from BBN in 1972; it became TOPS-20 when DEC licensed it a few years later) did that and more; it allowed typing an abbreviated command and then visibly completing it. I think some Unix shells later did that, but TENEX commands were full words too.

              Unix had the abbreviated, non-obvious commands that created a sort of geek secret handshake, like grep, ls, cat, and mv. Not designed for the public, but for labs types who couldn't touch-type, or were using 35ASR Teletype machines with hard-to-press keys.

    2. Mpeler
      Coat

      Re: For all the metro haters

      I can see it now....Micro$oft's answer to this will be "one Bing to rule them all"....

  2. DougS Silver badge

    "keeping the Mac operating system out of the smart design stable"

    Huh? Apple didn't try to push one true interface across everything like Microsoft (and now Google, apparently) tried to do, but they've had guidelines for developers down to the detail Google is providing and more on the Mac since nearly its inception.

    Google has little presence on the desktop so they don't have an existing userbase to upset by making it work less well like Windows 8 (and GNOME 3) In fact, it will probably help sales of ChromeOS PCs/laptops by providing people an interface they're familiar with from their Android phone.

    Chrome's only problem is that the usage model it is targeted at is the exact usage model where PCs are being replaced by tablets and smartphones. But with a cheap enough alternative, those users will want to have a device available that has a proper keyboard, so making it look/feel like a big Android device that has a keyboard is the way to go for Chrome, I think.

  3. DougS Silver badge

    This is not a validation of Microsoft's Metro strategy

    As I said in my earlier post, this makes sense for Google, because it should help sales of ChromeOS PCs having an interface Android users will be familiar with.

    The problem with Microsoft doing the same thing with Metro is that they're coming from the exact opposite situation. Google has a huge installed base of touchscreen devices, and almost no PCs. Microsoft has a huge installed base of PCs, and almost no touchscreen devices. Making the PC users conform to the touchscreen motif was a monumental blunder for Microsoft, which they seem to be backpedaling away from, albeit slowly (a proper Start menu is finally coming back in the next update, I hear)

    I guess Microsoft just can't help themselves making a reviled OS every other rev. I wonder what sort of crazy shit Windows 10 will bring?

    1. Mark .

      Re: This is not a validation of Microsoft's Metro strategy

      "(a proper Start menu is finally coming back in the next update, I hear)"

      That's great for people who prefer the Windows 7 start menu (not "proper" - people just have different preferences, and options are nice). But what does that have to do with touch? I can click icons with a mouse, or use with touch. MS changed the start menu significantly, but it's a myth that it's forcing people to use touch (otherwise how would people click the icons on the OS X dock without a touchscreen).

      1. Terje

        Re: This is not a validation of Microsoft's Metro strategy

        While the metro interface doesn't FORCE you to use touch, the entire design paradigm for it is heavily touch focused.

        As an ordinary computer user with a mouse I don't need large uniformly coloured slabs to be able to click them with the mouse cursor, I'm perfectly happy with design elements way to small to be useful in a touch environment.

        For ordinary desktop work I fail to see any valid reason to use touch in favour of a mouse for any reasonable task, why then force a desktop userbase onto a design that even if not unusable is far from optimised for desktop work. Having metro as a chocie of interface would be just nice as it is useful for some circumstances where touch is a nice feature. but just leave me an option never to see the crap on my desktop.

        For Google on the other hand this paradigm amkes sense, many systems running Chrome OS and almost all running Android are portable without a keybord or "convertible". The userbase for these devices are also commonly used to a touch environment and the ergonomics are not as hideous as they are for a desktop.

  4. wobblycogs

    Useful Document

    It looks a bit like Windows 8 (which I agree doesn't work on the desktop) but putting that aside it actually appears to be a good primer for how to develop a usable interface for a touch screen device and that can't be a bad thing.

    I don't think anyone would claim that the new interface in Windows 8 was anything but a disaster on the desktop but don't forget that was the first time anyone had really tried to make a single unified desktop across everything from phones to desktops. Microsoft were foolish to have tried the experiment in such a public way but fair play to them for trying. A few more iterations and I suspect we'll be wondering what all the fuss was about.

  5. Moosh

    In the case of Windows 8

    A simple choice would have solved many of their problems. If it simply allowed you to select upon your first log in which mode you would like to default to (and also allow you to change it very simply once you've logged in), then that would have been perfect. They needed Metro and the desktop to be separate entities that could interact with each other well, as opposed to trying to have Metro cannibalize everything and forcing its use.

    Once you've messed about and sorted it so you never have to look Metro in its unholy, ugly little face ever again, Windows 8 is pretty good, really. It's like a more advanced Windows 7 in general usage.

    As it is you have to jerry-rig an explorer window to open as soon as you load up so it forces you straight to desktop and, as others have said, you have to install third party software for a simple start menu. Metro is so poorly designed that it's horrible to use even on a tablet. It is NOT good when it isn't intuitive in the slightest; it takes a lot of effort to even figure out how to get to the desktop on a non Surface machine (as on the surface you can simply press the physical windows logo).

    Like others have said, Google is primarily a touch screen phone and tablet OS. No one expects the functionality of a true desktop environment, even when purchasing a chromebook. The danger simply isn't there for them, apart from the noted issue of it being quite a drastic change from traditional android.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: it takes a lot of effort to even figure out how to get to the desktop

      You click on the picture of the desktop, or if you're not sure what it looks like, it's the tile with the word "desktop" on the bottom.

  6. adnim Silver badge

    I know my desktop

    I know my laptop, I know my servers, I know my mobile, I know my tablet. Why do they need to look and behave the same?

    That was a rhetorical question. I can understand the need for unified interfaeces ( no speelin error here) for those too lazy or too thick to hold more than one vision in their head.

    I accept I could make my "IT" experience easier and more streamlined but life sucks without a challenge. Besides the right tool for the right job works for me... Windows for games, Mint for desktop, touch for tablet and mobile and command line for servers. Of course I am completely wrong and outta my fsckin head as the downvotes will show. roflmfao.

  7. jnffarrell1

    Nice thought. There are no sales sticks to beat users with

    There were the cudgel's leftover from MS's business machine monopoly. MS threatened business buyers with unemployment, while selling business machines to bosses. Old boy sales organization-men enjoyed the hijinks while disparaging competitors business machines, and laughing at Scroogled jokes.

    Those days are gone: 5B users are now seen to be more important than 50M bosses.

    Old non business users were forced to adapt to Windows, or die out of touch with their kids and grandkids, so they bought PCs and learned to Skype. All in all, users were not delighted by Windows/Office's the ease of use.

  8. Mark .

    "Yet Microsoft was wrong to lump PC users in with device users, as it turned out neither customers nor developers wanted Metro on their PC – they hated it. Apple was smarter: consistency only across the phone and tablet with iOS while keeping the Mac operating system out of the smart design stable."

    I'm so glad that one journalist can speak for every single person. Probably typing that from behind a light-up Apple logo.

    Some people like it, some people don't. Just like every time there's a new version of Windows. Most people who were bothered were more annoyed by loss/change of the start menu than anything to do with design consistency. But it's annoying to hear this history revisionism where people speak for all Windows users, or for Apple fans to take that criticism as somehow a win for Apple - it doesn't mean that people like Apple OS X better (which doesn't have a start menu, and last time I looked launched things by clicking on icons too).

    Why is it always right to make tablets like phones, and not laptops? For a 7" tablet, sure, but my 10" Asus Transformer Book is far closer to being a laptop (because in fact, it _is_ a laptop, but converts to a tablet), and it's nice running a full OS on it rather than being a giant phone.

    The area where Google have chosen to be more like MS than Apple is not "design", but the possible introduction of touchscreens, which we've already seen with the Pixel Chromebook, and would seem more natural when they start enabling some Android applications on Chromebooks. (Though Asus were way ahead, with their Android Transformers.) I'm sure that we'll continue to hear though that touchscreens are evil, except on a device on the same sized that begins with an "i", then it becomes revolutionary and we should all throw away our keyboards to use one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wow. You are the very epitome of a mindless fanboy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: Wow. You are the very epitome of a mindless fanboy.

        Wow. You are the very epitome of an anonymous coward. No input of any value, just name calling.

        Twat.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: re: Wow. You are the very epitome of a mindless fanboy.

          Are you being ironically anonymous yourself? Also, not name calling if it's a fact. The guy is a raging fanboy.

          Tit.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The guy is a raging fanboy.

            Maybe you could demonstrate that by refuting what he said rather than just name calling? I mean pointing out "facts".

  9. IGnatius T Foobar
    FAIL

    Microsoft FAIL

    The nice thing about doing this stuff in a declarative language is that after the Microsoft-led fad of ugly UI's with blocky 2-D stuff finally fades, the same declarative language will compile down to code that drives the attractive and usable UI that comes later.

    Hopefully we will settle down somewhere between the ugly 2-D extreme and the unusable skeuomorphic extreme. We want buttons that are 3-D enough to stand out and look like buttons, but not so photorealistic that you need a thousand pixels to show every detail.

  10. Someone Else Silver badge
    Coat

    I think they were misquoted

    Microsoft shot for consistency with Metro, putting the square interface on its tablets, phones and PCs under something it called three-screens and the cloud.

    I'm thinking they meant, "three yards and a cloud of dust"

    Or, perhaps more accurately, "three sheets to the wind"

    1. Mpeler

      Re: I think they were misquoted

      Or would that be

      "Three strikes, you're out"...

  11. Mpeler
    Paris Hilton

    Material Girl

    Time to get the Playmo simulator going of a Madonna-like playmo(naut?) singing about being a material girl

    (or some such).....

    Google...my, er, glass....talk about wanting total control....

    Paris, because she's a material girl too...(and knows how to lift a glass)...

  12. jonaD

    It's really really simple Google...

    Here is the secret... make your USER INTERFACE GUI, look like that of a MacBook Pro, maybe system 10.4 TIGER, with the same 'classic environment' but instead of Systems 7-9, make those pull down menu options run older versions of Android, that can run in a separate window so that older aps are still compatible.

    In other words... give us a FINDER BAR, pull down menus, docks, multiple windows, old and new android compatibility, etc. When I flip on my ANDROID and it looks and works! nearly exactly like a Mac... I'll start using it again!! Big time.

  13. Displacement Activity

    Polymer?

    29 comments and no-one's mentioned Polymer? Anyone used it? Just spent 20 minutes with it and it looks interesting. It only seems to have the Metro-like blocky theme, which I'm not keen on (looks crap, actually, too many colours, too big, too square, but might appeal to Metro users), and it doesn't look production-ready. The Bootstrap look-and-feel is much cleaner, IMHO. Other immediate reactions are that the UI designer looks like it might save a lot of trouble, and that it might currently be too network-heavy for general web apps on a mobile.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Polymer?

      The idea of being able to import elements and use them as extensions to regular HTML is an interesting one.

      What I don't know, is how well it'll work with older browsers. There are times this could be useful for some of the projects I do, but then you get some customer who wants it to work on Internet Explorer 5 because they can't possibly move beyond Windows NT 4.0…

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes, the control panel thing really pissed me off, but worse was that Microsoft have made my home screen resemble a big button telephone for the elderly. That's the same home screen I have spent the last ten years carefully decluttering into a peaceful state of Zen nothingness.

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