Wavy hair is in

Authors: Monica Granfield
Posted: Fri, January 09, 2015 - 4:17:41

Has anyone else wondered if UI design is becoming trendy and fashionable? Like hair, clothing, interiors, and architecture, are user interfaces succumbing to waves of industry trends, becoming period-based creations? 

Lately, as I move from one application to another, I have noticed how much applications are all beginning to look more and more alike. It feels very much like the look-alike teenage girls at the mall, with their long, bone-straight hair, in their black NorthFace jackets, skinny jeans, and Ugg boots. They all look in style, but they all look the same. This is the point for teenagers, but is it the point of a good user experience? 

There is the style movement of flat UI happening, but then there is the actual presentation. With Windows Metro stepping into the flat but colorful arena first came the welcome new wave of clean, flat UI. It was great to have grids, better use of fonts, and the notion of whitespace all in the game! It’s just that from Google to Apple and beyond, the interfaces and experiences all seem to be so similar, so much so, that at a glance, sometimes I can't tell one from the other. 

A few months ago, I was talking to a colleague about an assortment of applications, which had been printed out to get a high-level look at the current state of trending applications in the market. What I immediately noticed was how many apps are using the same visual stylings, such as the same colors, the same rounded images, and the same light outline of the icons. These presentations are nice, except when you can't tell one from the other. Is this because of pressure to get software out the door, and that perpetuating what is a known entity is faster and more predictable? The problem with this is creating an experience that is so similar to all others, both visually and experientially, is not only mundane, it also weakens the brand. How do you differentiate your product and promote your brand? 

Are we evolving into periods of UI design? There was the "Battleship Gray" era of the late 80s and early 90s, then the colorful, almost bulbous, three-dimensional interfaces of the new millennium. After years of gray, how fun and refreshing it was to have all that color and tangible components. And how can we forget the excitement of the period of interfaces without color, the elegance of the transparent era of glass. Then Windows Metro brought us the clean, crisp, and modern flat UI. This has left me wondering, could we be in the "mid-century" era of UI design? If so, it would be great to have some of the mid-century flare, beyond round user images, to support more distinct visual presentations and overall user experiences. We now have motion graphics that aid in adding distinct dimension to the end-user experience. As we know, similar interaction can be useful and predictable, but if we, as designers, provide the right affordances, interactions should be useable, discoverable, and meet the user’s needs for the intended experience. Will flat UI design, like mid-century design, become a classic look and feel that lasts throughout the ages? Will UI cycle through styles, revisiting various styles and trends again? Will we embrace a style period but still have the confidence to apply unique and identifiable visuals to our own experience, within the mainstream market? 

If UI is fashionable, what is the next big trend? Will battleship gray cycle back around or will wavy interfaces with subtle curves come into fashion next? After all, flat hair is out—wavy hair and Bean boots are making a comeback. So maybe it’s time to spice things up in the UX world and not only move beyond the flat hair, fleece, and fuzzy boots, but find your own color boots or fleece this time around. 

Posted in: on Fri, January 09, 2015 - 4:17:41

Monica Granfield

Monica Granfield is a user experience strategist at Go Design LLC.
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