After adding an entirely new section on motion - and new guidance on onboarding and growth - back in May, Google Design is back with another update to the material design spec.
The August 2016 release includes new documentation for Nougat's new notifications, confirming and acknowledging user actions, and widgets, with updates coming to the navigation and full-screen mode sections.
Nougat's notifications, as we've seen through a handful of preview releases now, have a somewhat more complex or info-rich design compared to previous generations. In its new section on notifications, the spec breaks down all the bits and pieces from headers to action areas.
Perhaps more exciting though is that Google defines usage patterns for notifications.
The spec specifically advises against ever-trending notification spam, including cross-promotion, notifying a user before they even open an app, messages that try to wrangle users back into an app for no reason, ratings requests, and error states. As someone who actually keeps a screenshot collection of terrible notification patterns, I sincerely hope designers, developers, and product managers take the advice to heart.
The new section on widgets is a sight for sore eyes, too. For a while it's seemed like maybe Google had forgotten about one of Android's most unique home screen features, but the new section defines common types of widgets, behaviors like resizing and scrolling, and responsiveness. The section may not be expansive, but it at least suggests some attention is being given to widgets.
The "confirmation and acknowledgment" section essentially separates things like alerts from "acknowledgments" or non-blocking, comparatively passive notices that an action has been performed.
As a matter of practice I try to avoid the word "finally" when covering new features, but the temptation is strong when I think of the updates to the "navigation" section of the spec. Google has
finally added explicit guidance on "up" vs "back" behavior in apps.
Previously, this guidance was buried in developer documentation, using outdated screenshots and copy that left a lot to the imagination. But today's spec update plainly explains the following:
The Up button returns users to the previous screen they viewed. It navigates upward in the app’s hierarchy until the app’s home screen is reached.
The Back button navigates in reverse chronological order through the history of recently viewed screens.
Again, it's hard to say whether this guidance will get through to those responsible for bringing apps to life on Android, but getting this distinction into a more visible spot is a good first step toward stopping apps from taking over your "back stack."
The material spec's August update is more about details than broad strokes, but the details that have been added were deeply needed, and will hopefully move us a step closer to the dream of having apps that not only work well, but are also well-behaved.
- Material design spec