Is timeless UI design a thing?(

over 3 years ago from Tiago Franco

  • Tanner ChristensenTanner Christensen, over 3 years ago

    This article seems to completely miss the point of design.

    Design is not art, particularly as it relates to UI. Interfaces are built to bridge a need with a solution: the ATM, the calculator, elevator buttons and screens.

    The reason we have trends in UI design is not because someone, somewhere, thought a really cool and fancy effect would be just what the user needed. No, trends are trends because they serve a need.

    When Apple first released the iPhone they used the then-popular skeuomorphism style because they knew many people using the device wouldn't understand what made something a button vs. not. A texture, shadow, and lighting helped remedy that concern.

    Now, some 11+ years after the first iPhone we see "flat" design in UIs as trendy. That's for a reason: the technology we use is now ingrained in much of our day-to-day life, we no longer need things in the screen to look like a button in order to know "Hey, I can tap this."

    Timeless design certainly serves a place, but your goal as a designer shouldn't be to create something that's "timeless" or "trendy" but instead just design for the problem at-hand. That's all that matters.

    19 points
    • Tiago FrancoTiago Franco, over 3 years ago

      Just want to say that I like your Avatar.

      5 points
    • John Doe, over 3 years ago

      If you can create something that is both functional and timeless, I can hardly see the downside of it. It’s not a question of being art or not.

      If you hire an architect to plan your house, you wouldn’t want it to be something that would need to be completely reworked five years later. Ideally, he would plan something that would be as timeless as possible.

      Design adapts to progress, as you’ve made clear with the iPhone example, but regarding websites, it’s possible to keep it as simple (and functional) as possible to favor its longevity.

      In sum, I hardly disagree that the article misses the point of design.

      0 points
      • Miles ReiterMiles Reiter, over 3 years ago

        I don't know exactly where I stand on the point of design, but I'm not sure that architecture and interior design is quite the right fit for the idea behind that example.

        Architecture absolutely has trends. Tastes in style, paint colorings, window size, number of floors and position and size of various rooms, flooring treatments, furniture and appliances, it all fluctuates quite significantly.

        The trends and styles that go in and out of fashion do tend to last longer than those of UI Design, but I wonder whether that would hold true if it was as easy to redesign a house and buy all new furniture as it was to redesign a site or an app.

        2 points
    • Ben Patterson, over 3 years ago

      I think this is pretty spot on, but I think technology plays an ever bigger role than you suggest.

      How can UI design be timeless if the technology that it depends on is not timeless? The examples in this article are independent of any particular technology — anything that can render line and color can render a classic Swiss design. But digital UI depends on a very specific rendering engines, operating systems, input/output devices, and other very non-timeless things. (Although I will concede that some digital UIs last a lot longer than you might expect.) If you attempt to load a product from 15 years ago, I'd bet the visual style of the UI is not what will give you trouble.

      4 points
      • Tanner ChristensenTanner Christensen, over 3 years ago

        We're saying the same thing.

        1 point
      • Tiago FrancoTiago Franco, over 3 years ago

        I partly agree. Yes, a web product from 15 years ago will be outdated. But the design of digital products today is not at the same level of maturity that it was by then.

        Some UX patterns are more mature now. People are also more educated regarding how to use digital products.

        I truly believe that it is now possible to design something a digital product today that we'll need minor adjustments and still work well 15 years from now.

        0 points
        • Ben Patterson, over 3 years ago

          Well, I was actually trying to say that any digital UI is probably going to be broken in 15 years due to outdated databases, old OSes, broken links, forgotten languages, and unpaid server bills unless it has been maintained along the way.

          So if the backend technology itself is not timeless — how can the UI be timeless? Why would we want it to be timeless?

          The premise of this article necessitates that software exist in some kind of stasis, but it can't.

          1 point