Google Material Design Isn’t Perfect

I am Kevin Rhodes Kevin Rhodes 3 years ago 6 min read

Google has recently been pushing their Material Design across all platforms, even iOS. About a month ago, Google Maps for iOS was revised with the brand new Material Design look and feel. As a designer, I thought, “this is great.” The folks at Google really push design as part a competitive advantage over Apple’s UI that was introduced with iOS 7. But after using it, it dawned on me that their was a major usability problem lurking inside.

The Changes

It’s important to take a look at the structure and design of the old Google Maps and compare it to the new one. Google introduced new principles. These principles that Google incorporated from their Material Design language are: material is a metaphor (a metaphor for paper and ink), bold, graphic, intentional (like print based design which focuses on typography and white space), and motion provides meaning (making animations that don’t disrupt but aid).

Before and after of Google Maps for iPhone


In the Material Design documentation, Google handles primary actions with two main methods: “Floating Actions” and “Toolbars.” Now, starting navigation is something I would, and many others would consider a primary action. So I would expect it to be one of the two. But as you will find out, it’s neither.

The Usability Problem

As a user, the main thing I want to do when using a navigation app on my iPhone is to get to where I need to go, as soon as possible. This entails pressing the “start navigation” button. One problem: I could not find it. For the life of me. I stared at my phone for a good minute, trying to figure out where to tap to begin navigation. There was no floating button. There was no button in the toolbar. And I’m a UX Designer for crying out loud!

I wasn’t the only person to have this usability problem. The next day, I was in the car with my brother, only to discover he also could not find this call to action. Eventually, my brother figured it out. But the point of UX Design is to make things faster and easier to use.

It turns out that the way to start navigation is by tapping regular text, not a button. It completely gets lost in the list with all the other items.

“Start Navigation” is a primary action but doesn’t follow Google Material’s rules about primary actions 

My Point

The point I am trying to make here centers around all the fact that no user interface has a perfect structure. The problem is UI/UX designers automatically make the assumption that what Google has is exactly what they should be doing. Just looking at the level of detail on Google’s Material Design website, even I am just amazed by the level of detail.

But understand that all user interfaces have flaws. Google’s Material is great, don’t get me wrong, but don’t feel like it steps on your what you are doing. Just because you don’t go into depth about animations velocity that you have an inferior design.

A super in-depth page about animations in Material Design


Clearly, everyone has their own UX and design methodology. For me, I always try to emulate the best, but my own creativity might be suffering if I do it too much. Solving problems that might even be better than what a Google designer can come up with. What do you think? Leave me a comment below and let’s talk about it.

Useful Links in this Post

Google Material Design Guidelines
Matias Duarte Twitter (The guy who lead Material)

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    Greate article with relatable examples

  • Moses Yoon

    Id feel pretty stupid if I missed that

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