This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for years but it hasn’t been possible before. Google’s apps on Android have been similar mixture of styles and patterns as we’ve seen in Android apps in general. But now it is finally changing. Google has unified their app UX and visual style. Most of their apps now use standards components and design patterns explained in the Android design guidelines. I think we can finally say that we have a unified platform when it comes to apps (well, almost).
But what about the style. Google apps all look relatively boring, right? Most of them use the default gray style and even the ones that don’t, use very simple variations of darker gray colour themes.
Gray is the new black
I think that the plain styling of the Google apps is a great thing. Let me explain why. Personally, I very rarely buy any non-black, non-white or non-gray clothes. The simple reason is that I can’t be bothered to figure out if a certain tone of red works with my other clothes so I go with the ones that I know always just work. I think Google has done the same with the stock app stylings. The Google apps will never clash with even the wildest and craziest stylings of 3rd party apps. Whatever crazy apps you’ll install to your phone the GMail app is always just fine (just like my black shirt).When everything is gray non-gray stands out.
Another reason why I think that Google has made us all a favour by staying with their extremely simple styling is that now that we see apps like the amazing Timely they stand out. Google has left room for 3rd party apps to shine and stand out.
Making gray is easy
Third reason I really appreciate the simple styling of GMail, calendar etc is that not every project has a designer (sad but true). On Android it is perfectly fine to leave your app without styling. The simple non-clashing colouring and style of the platform stock apps lets us, the developer types, use simple math to create our apps. Just make sure that your margins, hit areas etc are as defined in the design guidelines and your app visuals are going to be just fine. It’ll never win any design contests but not every app has to.
So, this is why I think Google’s apps are awesome because they’re not awesome.