Sunday, March 10, 2013

Interface tile designs--evolution or fashion

I guess you have already realized that one of the most popular interface design styles today is tile design. The examples are many, Pinterest (maybe where it started), Windows 8, USA today, etc. Even "older" designs are changing their design to become more tile like. Ebay is trying to look like Pinterest.

The tile design has an immediate appeal. It is clear, structured, appears to be highly organized and of course, is in many cases visually appealing. We have over the years seen many "styles" come and go, usually they have been seen as evolutions of the interface--new paradigms. GUI is seen as superior to command based interaction for instance and not as a style or fashion. Touch and gesture is seen as developments away from traditional keyboard interactions--not as a fashion. But is tile interfaces the next step in the evolution of interfaces or is it only a style, a fashion? And if so, does it matter?

My own very personal and unscientific analysis of tile interfaces has led me to the conclusion that the positive aspects I mentioned above does not come without problems. The dominating visual aspect of tiles seems to make it difficult to create distinctions between different types of content and also between differences in importance (apart from size). It also seems to be difficult to create a supporting browsing structure that does not "force" the user to inspect all tiles in the same way and with the same effort. I have to admit that I have not done enough examinations of this to be able to argue for any of these observations, but I am sure that they could use some study.

If tile design is less an overall evolution and improvement of the interface and more of a fashion, it does not mean that is necessary bad or less valuable. Styles and fashion are common in every area where it is difficult to make serious developments on the fundamental qualities of an artifact, for instance, clothes. New styles and fashions can be seen as ways to keep things from becoming boring and repetitive. And that is maybe what the tile design paradigm is all about.

I would like to hear what others think about this. Maybe interaction design, at least some aspects of it like traditional screen design, is at  a stage where style and fashion will become even more important and truly new interaction paradigms will be less common.

Personally, I am already a bit tired of tile designed interfaces. They do not work well for me. USA Today is a good example where I do not see any positive improvements when it comes to the overall user experience. But, I may be wrong.

No comments:

Featured Post

Why Design Thinking is Not Enough

If you go to Youtube and look for "design thinking" you will find a large number of videos with TED talks and other talks all expl...