Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stop the card madness...

Let's say that you have 5 five friends and you want to find what they are up to. How do you interact with them?

  1. You meet/call/mail them each individually and talk to them. 
  2. You have a conference call, facebook/watsapp group message, group email thread, where you just ask what is going on. People respond is random order, but you process the response serially. You lose some of that personal one on one conversation that you might have had, but you still easily touch base with them. All of them talk to each other, crack some common joke, and after a while the group messaging stops. You have effectively reduced the amount of work needed to communicate, and you have checked up on them so they know that you exist, but you still managed to alienate them... but you might not have spent the energy on an individual mail had it not been for the group chat, so this is still a win win situation.
  3. Now imagine that you ask your friends to continuously tell you what they are doing, but instead of communicating serially, they start shouting simultaneously. This is the craziest and the most inefficient way to communicate and that is being thrust down our throats by all the card interface craziness going on.

Let me explain; Pinterest, google currents, flipboard, and as of today, google plus, use card interface. What that means is they'll have each nugget of information on cards, and depending on the application, you can swipe, close, add, append etc these cards. Each of these cards takes a hell lot of screen space and has all the gooey gradient goodness with shadows and what not. Looks great and works great too.. if all you are reading is few occasional tidbits. If you are one of them, just imagine facebook stream arranged into huge squares and thrown about all over your screen.. or just imagine if each email in your inbox was delivered as these boxes. This interface does makes sense if you are discovering content, but not if you are going through a curated set of content, such as RSS feeds or social networking stream.

There have been tons of UI studies where the eyeball of the users were tracked and found to gravitate towards left hand edge of the screen/web page, by forcing these eyeballs all over the screen, these companies are causing a disservice to their customers. 

Now, admittedly, I'm still pretty hung up on Google Reader, but that is how I get to the gobs and gobs of information, I read about 20 articles daily, but for that, I go through 200+ feeds daily. The ability to go through everything and selectively read what I want is what makes stream readers such a good interface. Same thing holds for facebook. You scroll endlessly until something catches your eye, then you click that and explore. Imagine if every object in your news feed, the ones that you don't care about, took as much time; you wouldn't be able to process all that information in time.

With that said, card interface is not all bad. They work on mobile devices, but the powers that be should realize that it doesn't make sense on a desktop, and should show a device specific interface. It might even make sense for something like stumbleUpon.. but please.. not my email, not my feeds and not my social stream.

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