Google 'agonized' over this design element in its latest version of Android

Matias Duarte GoogleScreenshotGoogle’s Matias Duarte

The bold, colourful new look known as Material Design is a big part of what makes Android 5.0 Lollipop feel different than previous versions of the software.

It was a big undertaking on Google’s part. Matias Duarte, vice president of design at Google, said the effort involved in creating Material Design was “kind of like going to the moon” in a previous interview with Business Insider.

But there was one particular design element that the Android design team “agonized” over according to Duarte, who answered questions as part of an “Ask Me Anything” thread on website Designer News.

One designer with the username “Mitch” noted that the hamburger menu — those three stacked horizontal lines or bars that usually lead to a menu of some sort in an app — has gotten a bad reputation in user interface design since it’s been used so frequently. Mitch asked if Google had any “concerns” about that, since the hamburger is used in Material Design occasionally.

Here’s what Duarte had to say:

Hell yeah. We agonized over it!

It’s pretty clear that “hamburgers” can be overused. It’s just too easy for someone trying to “clean up” their app to shove all that stuff in the drawer where it gets lost — out of sight and out of mind. However there are a lot of secondary functions that are really nice to tuck out of the way, so we tried to include it as a possible pattern with strong guidance around when it’s appropriate to use. Maybe we didn’t do a good enough job on that, and that’s one of the things you can expect us to keep doing with the spec going forward: making it clearer and easier to use.

Here’s an example of where you can find a hamburger menu in Android 5.0 Lollipop within the Gmail app:

Most people don’t care either way, but others, like TechCrunch’s Josh Constine, hate the hamburger menu. He calls it a “poor mobile design choice,” saying that it hides features off-screen for no real reason.

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