Update 6/15/21: Check out our video for what Material You might look like on Chromebooks below!
Ever since Google announced its Material You design principles at this year’s I/O conference a few weeks ago and since the company hinted that the new, custom styling based on your personal preferences would eventually come to Chromebooks, I’ve been excited about what that could look like on Chrome OS. So, instead of simply dreaming, I took some time to mock it up visually so that I could share with you all what I truly believe Chromebooks may look like in the near future. I’ve also gone ahead and implemented a few tweaks to things that I think you may be excited for, so stay until the end to learn more!
Well, what do you think? This new theoretical Chrome OS design takes principles from the Android 12 Beta 1 update to Pixel phones in many respects while utilizing the unique color theming capabilities of the mobile operating system with Material You implemented. With that said, you can see that I’ve opted to replace the standard dark theme colors of the current design with a two-tone dark grey and a baby blue accent to complement the wallpaper behind the UI.
While the elements I’ve designed are not pixel-perfect and the colors aren’t exactly eye-dropped from the background, I leaned more into my own design sense to present something that I felt would be fairly accurate to the future of Chrome OS if Google does end up going this route. The launcher’s ‘Everything Button’ at the bottom left of the shelf, as well as the quick settings tiles and sliders and even the toggles in the settings app all take advantage of this accent color to provide a pop of excitement to the interface. Of course, Material You would allow users a wide range of color palettes to choose from, but this is just one example.
Accessibility and feature parity
Speaking of quick settings tiles, toggles and sliders, we’re all aware that Google has followed the trend of mirroring the design of its Pixel phones while implementing recent visual changes to Chrome OS, so I felt it was best to give Chromebook users the same large tiled buttons for this area that Android 12 has introduced. They’re both beautiful, and more accessible for touch and mouse input alike and leagues better than the current design’s smaller button toggles, in my opinion. Ever since I upgraded my phone, I’ve been convinced that Google would eventually drop this into its laptop operating system, so when it does eventually happen, you saw it here first, folks!
Next, I took the same padded notification design from Android 12 and mocked it up for Chromebooks. The current notifications appear as cards against the backdrop of the wallpaper alone, but I feel that the new visuals would make more sense and feel more approachable. This is subjective, but once I designed it, I couldn’t go back! You’ll also notice that I’ve updated the layout and style of the icons for notifications and in the Settings app as well to mirror Android 12 (currently, these exist in the Android Settings in Chrome OS!). Yes, I know, I’m obsessed with Android 12, but you will be too when you see and use it! Also, Google is most certainly going to be mimicking these elements across devices as it has done in the past, so why not visualize it early, right?
These new icons add a much-needed pop of color to the Settings area and make it easier for users to visually track down what they’re looking for. I’ve even gone ahead and finalized the Dark theme for Google since it still hasn’t done so itself. We’re fairly confident that work on the Chrome OS dark theme was halted so that the company could start work on Material You, but that’s just our gut speaking until we hear some solid evidence on the matter.
Going a step further
While I was at it, I took the liberty of designing some highly requested and what I believe to be extremely useful tweaks to the operating system. For example, with the growing number of tools on the right side of the shelf such as Phone Hub, global media controls, Tote, dictation, and more (based on what you have activated), I felt it necessary to fanboy over what left-aligned pinned icons would look like. I’m not going to lie – I absolutely love the centered icons and wish that my Windows machine also used them without an add-on like Taskbar X, but when you have a bunch of stuff open in addition to what’s pinned, things quickly start to run too far to the right and look claustrophobic with the host of tools and the date and time information, so it felt like a smart move. I’d love to see the development team make this something users can choose to turn on and off in the settings.
Oh, and two of my favorite features added to the mock-up above are the edit pencil for the quick settings tiles and the history button for notifications. My hope is that feature parity between Android and Chrome OS could be further improved in the near future, so I’ve decided to take it upon myself to make it a reality…well, visually. With the addition of the screenshot tool, dark mode, and the upcoming presentation feature, Chromebook users will have more tiles to juggle than they will probably care to.
Having a way to swap their order based on how important they are to the individual or turn some of them off entirely could prove invaluable to the user experience. I’m honestly a bit surprised that the ability to edit quick settings hasn’t come to the OS yet as it’s been a thing on Android for years, and I hope that this mock-up inspires the dev team to make it officially happen. Similarly, Android’s notification history button would prove useful for Chromebook owners who accidentally clear away vital information and wish to revisit it later. It’s not something that’s used often on my phone, but when I need it, it’s really nice to have. Being able to do the same on my laptop would be excellent.
Let’s discuss! Do you like the look of Material You on Chrome OS? Would you consider this an improvement to Chromebooks, or are you perfectly content with what it currently looks and functions like? As I always say, I’m a futurist, so while there have been no leaks on what the new design language could potentially bring to Google’s laptops, I do have a strong sense that what I’ve created could be true to life when the company eventually gets around to another redesign. We’re on the run to 200k (I’ve included a fun nod to this in the mock!), so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you can get the most up-to-date information on Chromebooks, Chrome OS, and anything Google-related. I have two other exciting mock-ups to show you tomorrow, so stick around as we have more fun with this!