A hot topic over the past year has been homogenous design on the web and it’s been an exciting issue to discuss, debate and digest. I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring with this short post. Here is my belief.
Homogeny in design is a sign of maturity, longevity and a deeper understanding of human-computer interaction.
Countless other designed industries have gone through the same cycle of discovery and experimentation before eventually succumbing to some level of homogeny. Since the middle of last century, sedans have consistently dominated the passenger car market. This is attributed largely to the need for fuel-efficient transportation for growing post-WWII families. In many cases, the family sedan is a great example of style taking a backseat to practicality. They are built to comfortably accommodate a regular-size family with four doors and an extended boot to transport goods.
Although design trends have come and gone, the family sedan has stayed very close to its original concept. Decades of consumer research has proven the value and usefulness of the sedan concept and we’re unlikely to see any major changes to the sedan in our lifetime, except maybe driver automation.
Similarly, interface design has matured to the point that practicality and usability are the driving forces behind successful experiences. Elements of graphic design like colour and space are applied to interfaces like window dressing and are intended to help create an emotional response from the user. These graphic elements don’t create successful experiences alone.
Interface design has gone through cycles of experimentation, just like sedans, and now the industry is collectively reaching maturity. We’ve hit “UX adulthood” thanks to user-centred design processes and the impact of device agnostic design.
As everyone in the industry knows, interaction designers are problem solvers first and artists second. Never trust a designer who views their job as anything else. I agree that same-same design can be super boring and uninspiring, which is why I try to include subtle surprises for users in my designs. You can still make a big impact with subtleties.
Users blindly trust an interface to produce the results they need and betraying this relationship with confusing design patterns is a deeper sin than sticking to bland, tried-and-tested experiences.