Since the dawn of the “information superhighway” in the mid 1990’s, when the skill of website design was in its infancy, there has been a strong and consistent trait in how websites look and operate. There has always been a desire to make the “virtual” online world mimic and behave like the “real” physical world we inhabit.

Early web designers would frequently feature drop shadow visual effects across websites; often over-using the technique in order to create the illusion of depth and reality on a flat monitor screen. Soon, as HTML and CSS coding developed, there was a further drive to make web use more of a dynamic interactive experience. Familiar “hover” and “roll over” effects became commonplace to give us the impression we were having an actual physical effect on the digital environment. Jump to 2007 and the emergence of the smartphone, tablets and a whole new way of interacting with online content: swiping, pinching and scrolling with a quick flick of a finger. This introduced new immediate and physical ways to navigate the digital world – treating it more like a physical object.

This ongoing trend for “reality” looks set to jump even further forward now with Google launching its new design language, Material Design. Developed primarily to be used in the touch-based interface design of Android mobile apps (whether they be social media platforms, banking apps, information hubs, music and media players or games), this new development seeks to make the digital world look and behave even more like the physical one.

Now 10 years on from the launch of the first iPhone, we are now very accustomed to swiping and pinching our way around the online world and within apps. But up to now, we have been used to “touching” relatively flat 2-dimensional, flat and static graphics (buttons, panels, sliders etc.). Thanks to Material Design, the digital environment we use every day will soon look and behave much more like real-life 3D physical objects.

Google’s new design language allows the various graphic elements that make up the interface of a webpage or app (e.g. drop down menu bars, buttons, sliders, backgrounds, side panels etc.) to exhibit a greater sense of light and depth, the true appearance of three dimensions, and dynamic motion and animation effects. Collectively, this will allow us to have the impression of physically interacting with real tangible objects. Furthermore, when we touch, press or swipe different parts of an app, they will also appear to stretch, divide and move like real objects too.

Material Design and your business

Now, you may well be thinking what really is the actual benefit to the user? And more importantly how might it benefit my business?

The drive to make the online experience increasingly closer to our everyday experience of the real world will make web and app use easier, more intuitive, more pleasing and enjoyable. We are programmed at birth to explore and interact with the physical world. It is what we are designed to do. It is what instinctively motivates us and reassures us. A digital app or website that looks and behaves more like the real world immediately makes the digital experience seem familiar and more enjoyable. And from a business point of view, the more your customers enjoy and feel at home using your app or digital content, the more likely they are to use your products and services and remain loyal customers.

The web designers and developers at Essex Web Design Studio are dedicated to keeping up to date with the latest developments in technology. Needless to say, we are excited about what Material Design could bring to the future of web and app design. As well as our expertise in creating responsive websites for businesses, we are equally skilled in designing and developing mobile apps for businesses too.