Google Starts Using UIKit For Its iOS Apps After A Decade Using Material Design

Apple UIKit, Google

Google has what it calls 'Material Design', which is a design language it introduced back in 2014.

The design features "cards" and a series of colorful, grid-based layouts, responsive animations and transitions, padding and depth effects. According to Google, the goal of Material Design is to create a new visual language that combines principles of good design with technical and scientific innovation.

Google stated that the design language is based on paper and ink, but implementation takes place in an advanced manner.

As explained by its designer, Matías Duarte, Material Design is "unlike real paper, our digital material can expand and reform intelligently. Material has physical surfaces and edges. Seams and shadows provide meaning about what you can touch."

Since then, Google apps started using Material Design, to showcase Google's products and associate them with its own unified design language. This empowers them in a way that the design language is Google's branding method.

But this is changing.

Read: Google's Material Design As A Principle For Surprising And Enlightening Experience

Google's suite of apps for iOS and iPadOS, including Gmail, Google Maps, Google Photos, Google Drive, and YouTube, have used custom user interfaces to mirror the experience on Android for almost a decade.

Google does this through Material Design guidelines that are meant to unify software design as much as possible across desktop, mobile, and the web for a consistent experience.

That, in order to make its apps look and function near identically, everywhere they are.

However, doing this makes Google apps on iOS and iPadOS to be criticized for not feeling native to the Apple platform.

When Google has Material Design, Apple has its own design language. And Google's design language doesn't fit well with Apple's.

Apple enthusiasts have also complained about Google apps that don't respecting common iOS conventions result in an inconsistent user experience between first and third-party clients.

After a decade using Material Design on its iOS apps, Google finally listened.

Earlier this 2021, the company’s designers reviewed their approach for developing iOS apps and opted for a change.

Staff engineering lead for Google Design on Apple platforms Jeff Verkoeyen, said that Google used its own custom libraries for Material Design on iOS and iPadOS in order to fill the "gaps in UIKit," which is Apple's framework for building apps.

But this time, following the launch of iOS 14, Google concluded that Apple's UIKit is matured enough, that Google is no longer required to maintain most of the custom IOS-focused Material Design components that it built out over the years, including app (top) bars, lists, and menus.

Despite Google finally ditching its Material Design and opt in for UIKit, the company adopts only standard controls, and only applies "light branded touches."

That, in order to maintain the Google look on iOS.

There will still be some of "the highlights of Google's design language," but married to "the best of UIKit." The "new direction" will "really make products feel great on Apple platforms," Verkoeyen explained.

As part of this shift, Google put Material Design's iOS libraries under "maintenance mode."

What this means, new releases and bug fixes for the custom design language shall be limited, with its documentation no longer updated. The company’s official guidance to past developer users is to “follow Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines and consider using modern UIKit components or SwiftUI instead.”

Besides changing its stance, Google has been adopting more recent iOS capabilities into its own apps, including widgets for most of its major services, as well as support for becoming the default browser or email client.