By now, we’ve all heard of Google’s enticing pitch on Material Design–their design language that re-imagines the pieces of user interface as real, physical objects. But while Google offers tools for any Android developer to build an app that adheres to Material Design standards, what if you just want to make a snazzy, Material Design website?
You can customize your own themes with a handy color picker, snag individual elements like cards, sliders, and menus, or just use one of their pre-built templates. The whole experience is not quite as turnkey as launching a site on Squarespace, but if you have a modicum of web programming knowledge, the code is simple to implement, and the design work has already been done for you.
Of course, the whole project does beg the question, does it make any sense for any person or company who is not Google to design a website in Material Design? While Material Design solves a major problem on Google’s Android smartphones from an interaction standpoint–it unites disparate software that’s trapped on very small and insulated pieces of hardware with predictable buttons, animations, and menus, so the end user benefits because they get a more familiar experience across apps–it doesn’t necessarily make sense in all web applications. For anyone browsing on an Android phone, a Material Design website is the natural extension of the Android experience. But what about desktop, where we’re already using third party browser controls to navigate, and then another layer of OSX or Windows OS interface is stacked on top of that? The underlying benefits of Material Design’s one interface to rule them all is lost in the noise of a desktop.
And although Material Design will make a good-looking site by nature, you can just take a look at Google’s available templates to see that out of the box, that site looks a lot like something made by Google. That’s because Google is going steps beyond dictating best design standards and practices about white space and kerning, and delving into branding through their recognizable button icons, Roboto font, and stock color selections, along with all sorts of other subconscious cues in their design standard.
So yes, Material Design is great, and now you can make your own Material Design website with relative ease. But is it great for you, or is it great for Google? (The answer to that question isn’t necessarily rhetorical. It probably depends on how much you’re willing to customize Google’s work, and whether or not you can design a better alternative.)