User Interface

Why use Material Design for your next project?

What is Material Design?

“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.”

Matías Duarte, Vice President of Design, Google

Material is a metaphor of paper. It is a flat surface that can hold content, cast shadows and stack on top of other surfaces. It also has the capability to expand and shrink in size.

Why use Material Design for your next project?


Why Material Design?

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Material Design has detailed guideline about how a component should look and behave.

The guideline includes font sizes, dimensions, margin and padding for each component. Following these specs will help you create layouts that look familiar to users. An easy way to apply Material Design is to utilize a material library. A material library allows you to save time designing individual components and focus more on the overall experience, workflow, and branding. At the end of this article, you will find a list of useful material libraries.

Why use Material Design for your next project?
Specs for a data table


Have you ever wondered about the meaning of the red, blue and green color in the specs? Click on the image to reveal more details. Here you can view the measurements, font size, and weight, corner radius and elevation. You can even manually measure elements using the ruler tool at the bottom of the page. On this page, you can find all the relevant details to reproduce the component.

Why use Material Design for your next project?
Detailed specs for a data table

Material Fundamentals


Material Design uses density-independent pixels (dp) as its unit of measure. As the name suggests, this measure is independent of the screen density (dpi: dots per inch). It ensures components all look the same regardless of the screen dpi.


The concept of elevation is fundamental in Material Design. When a layer is elevated from the surface, it will cast a shadow. The shadow is cast by two light sources: ambient light and key light. Ambient light shadow looks soft and goes in all directions, while the key light shadow is directional and sharp. A combination of key light and ambient light shadow creates the realistic looking for an “elevated surface”.

Why use Material Design for your next project?
Shadow cast by two light sources: ambient light and key light

In Material Design, all components have a predetermined elevation value indicated by dps. A 1dp elevation means the distance between the top and bottom surface is 1dp along the z-axis.

A component with a higher elevation value will draw more attention because it appears closer. For example, a floating action button is a primary action on a page, and it has a 6dp elevation, higher than elevation for other components like cards (1dp) and app bars (4dp).

Following the elevation, values will create a familiar environment as users have seen most of the components and know what to expect.

Why use Material Design for your next project?
Elevation values for different components


Enterprise products usually have a massive amount of data and require efficiency to location information. Hence high information density is often preferred in enterprise products. Learn more about Dashboard Design Guidelines for enterprise products.

Material Design provides the option to achieve high information density without reducing usability. Material Design specifies where to apply density (data tables and lists), and where not to (pickers and dialogs). While the guideline does not provide high-density specs for each component, It highlights the touch target minimum (48 x 48 dp). Keep in mind the minimum touch target when applying density will ensure users can effectively interact with the system.

Why use Material Design for your next project?
Touch target minimum


Knowing what components Material Design has for navigation, content, controls, and feedback will allow you to bring creativity and more freedom to the design.

Navigation Components

An application can have one or multiple navigation components at the same time.

  • App bars (top & bottom
  • Backdrop
  • Bottom navigation
  • Navigation drawer
  • Tabs

Content Components

Content components act like holders for contents in different formats.

ComponentContent Type
CardAll other components (pretty much)
Image listImages
ListImages, text (primary, secondary, metadata), controls, dividers
Data tableText, numbers, controls, tooltips, menus, text boxes, icons
Sheets (bottom & side)Icons, text, controls, dividers

Alert / Feedback Components


Selection / Control Components

  • Chip
  • Radio button
  • Checkbox
  • Switch
  • Menu
  • Slider

Mobile-friendly design

If you’re designing for mobile, you can find many options to enhance usability. For example, You can choose from a navigation drawer, a backdrop, tabs or a bottom bar to define the navigation structure for your application. You can also use a contextual app bar for task-specific actions, and expendable cards for progressive disclosure. Learn more about Mobile App Design.

It is important to ensure consistency across different screen sizes. Material Design uses responsive grids with 4-column, 8-column and 12-column grid layout at different breakpoints. A breakpoint is a screen size at which the layout needs to be adjusted to fit the screen. For example, when moving from mobile to tablet, the grid will change from 4-column to 8-column, and UI elements need to be reorganized in a consistent way.


Sketch Material Design template

Why use Material Design for your next project?

The Material Design Template in Sketch is a handy library to quickly find components like controls, cards and dialogs. It saves time since you don’t have to reproduce a component from scratch.

Sketch Theme Editor

Why use Material Design for your next project?

The sketch theme editor is a great tool to quickly visualize your branding style. You can change the theme color, typeface and corner style utilizing the options on the theme editor panel and see it apply to all screens in the document. You can easily get a sense of overall look and feel for your product with this plugin.

Material UI

Why use Material Design for your next project?

In this Material Design UI Kit you can see how each component would behave on a real application.


What Next

Idea Theorem is a Toronto based UI UX Agency. We create simple and usable products for web and mobile. Our human-centred design approach lets us understand your customers, identify their pain points & deliver solutions that enhance their experience with your brand. Contact Us if you have any questions and we will be happy to help you.

Mobile App Design

Guide to Mobile App Design – 10 Quick & Actionable UI UX Tips

The number of smartphone users is forecast to grow from 2.1 billion in 2016 to around 2.5 billion in 2019, hence having a good mobile app design will help retain users. Users depend on mobile apps to deliver content and services. There are about 5.8 million apps (in both App Store and Google Play store). How to ensure your mobile app is relevant and useful in the ocean of apps? Users experience is an important part of mobile app design.

Creating a good mobile design is not easy. Good apps need to have a clear focus and clarity. If the experience of the mobile app is not great then the user will abandon the app and never come back. The mobile app’s main job is to provide users with “I-wants” moment without any hiccups.

App Navigation

App navigation is very crucial for mobile design. App navigation should be intuitive and friendly. Buttons should be clearly labeled with proper attributes. DO NOT write jargons which users will not be able to understand. Menu categories should not overlap. Allow users to go back easily. Engage users by highlighting key or new features.

Keep in mind:

  • Navigation should NEVER be hidden.
  • Navigation should follow the same pattern across the mobile app.
  • Use tab bar for iOS and Navigation Drawer for Android for easy user interaction.
Guide to Mobile App Design - 10 Quick & Actionable UI UX Tips - Side Drawer
Kibii App using side drawer
Guide to Mobile App Design - 10 Quick & Actionable UI UX Tips - Uber Eats Navigation Menu
Uber Eats using iOS’s tab navigation

Declutter UI

Keep mobile UI design user interface clutter-free. Clarity is an important characteristic of a good mobile design. Too much design elements like buttons, images, text can make any phone app complicated and unable to use. Clutter is one of the worst enemies of UI design. Keep it simple and minimal otherwise, the user will not be able to focus on delivering the message in a clear and concise manner. Already mobile screens have a less real estate (as compared to desktops), so it is best to get rid of unwanted elements. Keep the mobile UI design as inconspicuous as possible and let the user get what they came looking for.

Keep in mind:

  • Try for minimal design for better and easy user interaction
  • Try to focus on 1 or 2 actions per screen
  • Don’t fill the screen with random content
  • Keep headlines and text concise and clear
  • Use white space wisely
  • Don’t use colors full-heartedly, it will confuse the user and also use brand colors
  • Use simple icons
Minimal Weather UI
Minimal Weather UI


Mobile devices have small screens as compared to desktops, fitting in a lot of information in a small mobile UI is a big challenge. Hence, keep the content should be short and easy to skim (users don’t read every word instead they pick out keywords and phrases). The content should be accessible when the user has no data connection. The content needs to be prioritized to enable a seamless user experience.

Guide to Mobile App Design - 10 Quick & Actionable UI UX Tips - Readability
Medium iOS App

Finger-friendly tap targets

When designing a mobile UI, keep in mind the tap targets. The tap targets should be big enough for the user to tap easily. The smaller the tap targets, the user will have a tendency to tap on the wrong target.

Keep in mind:

  • Research indicates that the average human finger pad is 10 x 14mm and the average fingertip is 8-10mm, making 10mm x 10mm a good minimum touch target size. Keep the touch target at least 10 x 10mm.
  • Have enough distance between 2 or more tap targets, so the user does not accidentally tap on the wrong target.
Guide to Mobile App Design - 10 Quick & Actionable UI UX Tips - Finger-friendly designs

Don’t forget the thumb zone

With every new phone release, the screen sizes have increased, holding the device with one hand and browsing the app is becoming difficult. The mobile app design should not only be aesthetically designed but also should focus on the movement of the fingers and thumb (and also keeping in mind which handed side the user is).

Keep in mind all zones when mobile app design is being created. Bigger the phone, more difficult for the user to hold the phone with one hand and tapping on targets if they are in the “OW” zone.

Guide to Mobile App Design - 10 Quick & Actionable UI UX Tips - Thumb Zone
Thumb Zone heat map applied to every iPhone display size since 2007 by Scott Hurff

Use OS design guidelines

Follow the design conventions set by Android/iOS. Each has a different way of navigation, content layout, buttons etc. If you have Android design guidelines for iOS (or vice versa), you are risking a seamless user experience of the app. Try to keep everything as native as possible. Mobile UI kits are different for each OS. Understand each OS guidelines and then start working on mobile app design.

Guide to Mobile App Design - 10 Quick & Actionable UI UX Tips - iOS Guidelines
iOS Design Guidelines
Guide to Mobile App Design - 10 Quick & Actionable UI UX Tips - Material Design Guidelines
Material Design Guidelines


With governments taking measures to make products accessible for everyone, designers need to have empathy and create a different experience for different people through the same mobile design. A well-designed product should be accessible to different users such as users with low vision, any type of blindness, motor and hearing impairments. With inclusive design, people with disabilities can perceive, navigate and interact with your product.

Keep in mind:

  • Contrast: Use color combination with high contrast.
  • Language: Use simple language as there would be many users for whom English will be a second language.
  • Focus: Use focus to determine the order in which the elements should receive first priority.

To read more about accessibility design, go here.

Idea Theorem - A Guide to Accessibility Design

Idea Theorem - A Guide to Accessibility Design

Idea Theorem - A Guide to Accessibility Design


Use familiar mobile UI designs for the buttons. Do not make any fancy shape or element and say that this is a button. For mobile app design, do not use text links as a button. Few common button design types are:

  1. Filled rectangle with square edges
  2. Filled rectangle with round edges
  3. Ghost Buttons
  4. Floating buttons used in the material design
Guide to Mobile App Design - 10 Quick & Actionable UI UX Tips - Buttons

Keep in mind:

  • Whitespace: Have enough white space between buttons and other design elements. If the button is closer to the design elements, the user will not be able to see the button. Have the right type of button for each mobile app.
  • Placement: Buttons should be located where the users can see it without any concerns. Place buttons in the traditional layouts and follow design conventions set up by the respective OS design guidelines.
  • Discoverability: Buttons should be easily discoverable. The user should not spend time in finding where the button is. The more the button is hidden, more abandonment of the mobile app.
  • Labelling: Label the buttons with what they are actually meant to do. For example, if the button is meant to add an item to the cart and the buttons say “Move Ahead”, the user will not understand the meaning and leave.


As the real estate for the mobile screen is very less, it is quite difficult to make the right typographical decisions. Mobile typography needs a huge attention to detail with the use of the right fonts, white space, and alignment. The key things to keep in mind while designing a mobile UI is that the content should be legible and readable.

Keep in mind:

  • Font size: The font size should be of the optimum size. Overall, anything below 16px would be difficult to read.
  • Font: Choose the right font which is easy to read and expresses the mood of the app. Do not use more than 3 fonts. (2 is better).
  • Typeface: Choose one typeface. If you feel that there should be a secondary typeface, choose the one which flows between the primary typeface. BUT do not go with more than 2 different typefaces.
  • Leading: Keep the leading (distance between 2 lines) just the right size so that it is easy to read and skim through different lines. Do not think that since mobile has less space you can cram up everything in one screen.
  • Tracking & Kerning: Keep tracking (space for groups of letters) and kerning (space between pairs of letters) consistent all through the mobile app design. The closer or farther the tracking or the kerning, it might make users unable to read the text.
Guide to Mobile App Design - 10 Quick & Actionable UI UX Tips - Typography

Reduce the number of user inputs

Users don’t like to be bombarded with huge forms, especially in the mobile phone where they like things to be done quickly.

Keep in mind:

  • Keep the forms short and sweet. Remove unnecessary fields.
  • Customize the keyboards according to the input fields. If the field requires numbers, show the numeric keyboard.
  • Validate the forms dynamically, so that the users don’t have to update the error inputs while submitting the forms.
Guide to Mobile App Design - 10 Quick & Actionable UI UX Tips - Forms

Make a great first impression

The first impression is the only impression users will remember. If the user does not like what they see for the first time, the mobile app will not get a second chance. Onboarding should not be boring or repetitive or long. In today’s world, nobody has time, especially with a mobile app. The app should be fast and the user should quickly understand the purpose.


At the end of the day, there should be a seamless user experience without the user scratching his head to understand how the product works. Before starting mobile app design know your target audience by creating lean personascustomer journey map and user research. So that you know who you are designing the product for. The better you know your audience, the right experience can be created for them.


Idea Theorem is Toronto based UI UX Agency. We create simple and usable products for web and mobile. Our human-centered design approach lets us understand your customers, identify their pain points & deliver solutions that enhance their experience with your brand. Contact Us if you have any questions and we will be happy to help you.