The gap between what we can touch and feel, compared to what we can see and scroll is narrowing by the day. Is everything merging into one? Where’s the line between real world and digital world experiences?
When I receive a letter in the first world, I open the seams and take out its contents. The digital world can be the second world. In this world, when I receive a letter I ‘click’ to open its contents.
What links these two things is the process by which we get from A to B. How do I get from envelope / notification to what’s inside? In the first world when you’re holding a physical item, it’s easy. I mean, it’s in your hands – how can you get confused?
In the second world you click on a message and a new screen opens. Well, by a screen I mean ten screens full of content areas, copy in every direction, CCs, BCCs, attachments and adverts all clogging up your eye holes. Where’s the one thing you wanted – the contents of your message? Although on the plus side, it appears you’re eligible for a few million dollars from a late Prince you didn’t know you were related to? #winwin #OhHiGeorgeAgdgdgwngo
Android Lollipop captures these interactions perfectly. In fact, it was Google who coined ‘Material design’ which culminates the interactions across all devices and browsers, bringing the digital spaces together in a user-centric manner. You press a button and it responds with movement or motion. You open a picture and it shows you a perfect user journey, from click to picture and then back to your photos. It’s so intuitive you just know you’re in control, and all by the sense of touch and sight. It’s funny that a glass screen with lights and no buttons can communicate the sense of real world buttons, but to me it just works.
It could also be said that Apple may have roots in material design. You must remember the iCal with the leather effect and torn page at the top? Well in a loose sense of the word you could consider that a form of material design. The app appearance resembles a real calendar, so you can mimic its use within the digital space (Skeuomorphism). The latest Apple operating system is stripped back and minimal, utilising layered effects and blurred transparency to give a sense of direction, location and context. It’s a very different way of addressing the user-centric issue of understanding use, function and operation. In the same way as material design, this approach uses our sense of sight to ‘see’ what content we’re reading, where we have come from and what actions we can then go to. The reduction of skeuomorphism has given way to space and clarity, reassuring the user and giving them a breath of fresh air to make their next command / action without the feeling of clutter or visual stress.
Both schools of thought show that whichever way we approach design and function, we need to rely on the tactile sensations of human beings. The simplicity of each convention is astoundingly straight forward, and the removal of complication and unrequired depth really puts the user in control.
So it begs the question…