Is Android L, otherwise known as Android Lollipop, a UX/UI game changer? I think it is too early to know for sure, and there has not been enough consumer feedback, but it certainly has developers excited. Why? Material Design. Material Design affects both User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI), giving developers a strict set of governing tools including things like how dragged objects accelerate, how items can be added and destroyed, what kind of interactions are allowed, and even specific color pallets. For example, the new animation APIs let you create more natural animations and respond to touch events in your views with touch feedback animations. At the same time, all the animations will interact with the user in the same way providing consistency. These UI rules mean that the user experience is streamlined, and the user can adjust easily across apps. For me, being able to open an app and already know how things will look and react means my user experience will be that much better. No more frustration when I have to learn or try to remember if the back button on a certain screen takes me back one page or back to my home screen. I will know that when I swipe left, the same thing will happen every time. Material Design is all about consistency across apps and platforms, and consistency makes my life easier.
Not only do I like consistency, I like it when my apps are visually appealing. A key component of UX is ensuring that things act as the user expects. For example, if I see a picture of a lever on an app, I want to “pull” the lever to make something happen. I don’t want to just click on a picture of a lever. That’s disappointing and boring. This is where Smart Paper comes into play. Smart Paper is the “core metaphor of Material Design”. Smart Paper is a fictional material capable of moving and changing shape. It has depth, can display content and behaves in a way the user expects. For example, interfaces are made of layers of Smart Paper cards, like a “magical notepad” inside your phone. When I tap on a card to select it, the card might rise and grow larger to display its content more prominently. I don’t have to run my fingers across it to expand it, because who does that in the real world? Personally, I lift something closer to my face to see it more clearly, which is exactly how these cards move.
Google plans to roll out Material Design across all of its platforms, creating a unified aesthetic which is nearly unheard of for a software company. I think there is little doubt that Android L will make a difference in UX/UI and it will be interesting to see if it pans out as an actual game changer.