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Dan Iaboni

Dan Iaboni

Ph.D - Principal Experience Architect

Google realizes the error of its ways

In a recent tweet (see below), Jeff Verkoeyen, a software designer at Google, announced that his team will no longer support the iOS’s Material UI library. While this isn’t a market-moving announcement, it reflects a shift in Google’s approach to creating a unified “Google experience” regardless of device.

While Google no doubt has the resources to continue this effort, it was fighting against two entrenched factors that make you question, why bother?

Consistency

The first factor against Google was consistency. Consistency is a core principle of design as it allows users to easily pick and use something new, based on prior experiences. It creates usually a more satisfying experience. When people think of consistency, they likely think of a design having the same look and feel, but there are actually four different types of consistency; visual, functional, internal and external.  

When most people think of consistency, they are likely thinking along visual lines. So, does the design align with the brand, and does all the elements (buttons, menus, etc.) adhere to a system.  Functional consistency includes the structural features of the system, such as labelling and controls, so a dropbox control on one screen works similarly to other screens.  Internal consistency ensures the sameness within the suite of products, exemplified by Windows Office, on a PC, which maintains a similar navigational structure and layout across products.  Finally, external consistency is when the design adheres to guidelines and standards set by the environment, in this case, iOS and Android.  

Making Tradeoffs

When designing, there may need to be tradeoffs between the levels of consistency. Not all types of consistency are equal, with external validity being the most critical and visual being the least. For example, due to screen estate, a button design may vary between two screens, but that button maintains its functional behaviour.    

Google was striving for internal consistency so that regardless of whichever device you were using (desktop browser, IOS, or Android), you would be able to use the products similarly. The challenge is that IOS users have entrenched expectations based on their experience using previous applications that follow Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). 

Akendi has completed usability studies where clients tested desktop applications that were being moved on to mobile devices. The results always showed that you can’t simply translate the design from one over to the other. The design must reflect the context in which it is being used. 

Intertwined Hardware and Software

The second factor Google fought against is that the design of the hardware and software are intertwined. You can use a Windows keyboard with a Mac computer, but it’s adding frustration for little to no benefit. The decisions Apple makes for its UI guidelines are aligned with hardware in mind. Deviating from those guidelines can break with user expectations. 

Don’t fight the environment in which your products exist. Embrace it, and in the end, your users will be all the happier for it. 

Dan Iaboni

Dan Iaboni

Ph.D - Principal Experience Architect

Dan firmly believes that technology must be created with the user in mind. Never shy to critique a bad design, Dan uses the Akendi blog to shine a spotlight on usability mistakes…and their solutions. Leveraging his background in engineering, computer science, psychology, and anthropology, Dan offers a unique perspective on the latest UX trends and techniques.


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About Akendi

Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.