Google is rolling out Material Design updates for a number of G Suite tools on the web. Users of the G Suite versions of Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Sites can expect to see a number of visual refinements hit the desktop versions in the next few weeks, but the consumer variants of all of those will apparently be left alone for now.
Material Design is meant to bring a consistent look and feel across Google's entire product lineup, and these changes to G Suite tools are no different. Users can expect to see some controls moved around or tweaked to be more consistent across the board and perhaps a bit more user-friendly. Font changes are also in order, moving over to Google's custom typeface. Finally, expect to see an overhaul to icons throughout the affected apps, switching everything over to clearer, crisper icons with a flat look.
Background: G Suite has received a number of changes that haven't gone over to the consumer versions of the corresponding product, so this development is nothing new. Google+ is perhaps the most obvious example of that, with the consumer version shuttering while the G Suite version gets new features. Hangouts is also prominent, being split into Chat and Meet for the professional crowd.
Speaking on the matter of Material Design in a more general sense, Google has spent quite some time revamping just about all of its products with those guidelines in mind. Across mobile and desktop, Material Design has been refined and revamped, all while being implemented in just about every consumer-facing product that the company touches.
Material Design came about way back in 2014, debuting commercially in Android 5.0 Lollipop. The new design language, the brainchild of Matias Duarte, blended slick animations with a simple and intuitive design that was made to provide users with unwritten instructions and make every animation, every move logically and visually flow.
Impact: The implementation of Material Design in just a few more tools makes Google's design language that much more consistent and approachable. The goal here is not only to have every in-app interaction flow and look nice, but also to make everything intuitive. Essentially, rather than having so many complicated features that you can obtain a certification for the suite of tools, as Microsoft has done, Google is looking to consolidate functions and send common signals to users, all without necessarily compromising or dumbing things down.
The G Suite versions of these apps getting Material Design overhauls, coming after the consumer versions in most cases, is a logical progression. Google is betting on making a platform full of tools that are user-friendly enough to make routine productivity tasks easier and more intuitive than they would be anywhere else. While there are still many specialized use cases that will require tools outside of Google's shed, there's a few good reasons that Chromebooks and G Suite are becoming more common in workplaces and schools, and a big part of that is the user-friendliness and consistency being offered by Material Design.