Google Docs Gives Us A First Taste Of Google’s New Design Language

A Google Docs update teases the principles of material design, but the idea is still only half cooked.

Last month, Google debuted a new design language they’re calling Material Design. It won’t roll out in full until the release of their next Android OS (called Android L). But today, you can spot some its principles manifesting in an update to Google Drive, along with its companion sites Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Though Google Drive is still slowly rolling out to the public, but the redesigns for the three sites have gone live. As GigaOM points out, you’ll see that Google has ditched checkboxes (now things just open when you click them). They’ve added attention-grabbing, circular buttons to create new documents (and if you hover over this these buttons, you’ll be greeted with prominent drop shadow). And your documents are now listed by default as endlessly expandable, white cards.

Old Google Docs
New Google Docs

The updates look great, and as a GDocs junkie, I’ll appreciate them every day. That said, I almost hate to label this superficial makeover as Material Design to anyone who hasn’t seen the idea playing out full-bore when it runs in Android. In essence, Material Design turns user interface into a physical object--a paper that seem to stretch, bounce, and gravitate. While Google Docs does manage to work in more of material design’s structure, drop shadow and white cards, it doesn’t feature any of these seamless animations that really define the language as something potentially groundbreaking. And it goes to show, if Google wants to scale one physical interface across every device you can imagine (from web browsers to smart watches), all of our devices will need to learn how to handle processor-intensive animations better.

Try it here.

[Hat tip: GigaOM]

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7 Comments

  • Curious how they'll address the multi-select and batch delete that effectively were omitted when they removed the checkboxes. Sure, the new design looks much cleaner and is easier to read by far, but simple tasks like the ones listed above are something I use on a day-to-day basis and will be missed.

  • quikboy

    I still find Google's new design language to be rather meh in its current implementations. I find either Microsoft's "Modern" (a.k.a. Metro) or Apple's flat design to be much visually attractive.

    As an aside, Google Docs is nice if you have very basic needs, but Word Online is much better with more features and is also free. It's definitely worth giving a shot and it's great to have competition in this space. https://www.office.com/start/default.aspx

  • I don't understand the paper design analogy. When I look at a piece of paper I don't see white space on a gray background. Go to your printer if you're confused on the appearance of paper. Paper doesn't bounce or stretch either.

    It looks alright. I believe minimalism is going out of style in favor of geometric shapes. It's not bad however I am confused as to why people say it's a paper design.

  • Agreed. As I said, the way they described Material Design was so bizarre, as if they were introducing the concept of 'Software' to the consumer market in the 1960s. The animations on the screen were there to illustrate responsive design, something that no one at a Google I/O conference should be 'awestruck' by. Basically Google is going all in on Rx/Fluid layouts. No duh-- they have about 150 different screen sizes, they have to do that.

    But that's design: It's a solution to a problem. Not just 'ooh, pretty!' The problem with Apple (not a big deal by now) is that they introduced flat design without really justifying the change. They actually DID make drastic visual changes without solving any 'problems'. Or at least whatever problem they were solving wasn't clearly expressed at the WWDC event. Many in the industry believe that Apple flat out adopted flat design because everyone else was doing it and it was very popular. That is NOT a position Apple is familiar with.