The Middle Ages had a belief that the world was a flat disk with a sharp edge, beyond which things just fell into oblivion, sounds not only ridiculous in today’s times, but also reminds us of how we have evolved in terms of our thinking.
But if you talk about revolution in the tech world, it’s quite opposite to our old (and wrong) thesis of the world being flat. We started out with round, spherical, bloated icons and gradually progressed towards a much flatter, simplistic UI. But how did the change happen? Who brought it about and who followed? Let’s find out…
The Old World
Starting from a heavily drug-induced Skeuomorphic design introduced by Apple back in 2000s, it was a rage. Fake leather, fake suede, fake stitching and what not. Making hefty, plumpy icons that cluttered our desktops, both on mobile and PC, was order of the day.
Then everything changed in 2007. Somewhere in Redmond, a company called Microsoft experimented with a brand new design language. And calling it different would be an understatement. It was quite revolutionary actually. In 2007, Microsoft announced its mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7, along with introducing Metro Design. A flat, colourful UI that instantly stood apart from the competition.
Slowly, the world noticed this beautiful new look. And it wasn’t long before they adapted it. 7 years on, the platform may be struggling to gain market share, but it has taught every other big player something they will never openly admit they’ve picked from Microsoft. That icons don’t have to be bloated to look beautiful. Minimal, plain icons can look just as gorgeous as those found on iPhones when it was introduced.
The first to publicly acknowledge this changing tide was Apple. They changed their aging UI with iOS7, calling it the biggest overhaul since its release. And being media’s favourite as always, they were lauded with praises as they kept calling it their own “innovation”. But the fact remained, it wasn’t.
Next, and fairly recently, Google introduced its very own Material Design for Android. Simplistic, fresh and colourful, Google’s new UI showed the next version of their mobile operating system, Android 5.0, Lollipop. Whereas in all honesty, it should have been the other way round.
I am not even mentioning all the OEMs like HTC, Samsung and LG that are clinging on to this new approach.
I’m wish to point out however, that it was Microsoft that did something radically different, just like Apple with the iPhone. If Apple had a great operating system, Microsoft had a
better-looking OS. Too bad it isn’t doing as well as the Redmond-based company wished it did.
The New World
So Skeuomorphic designs are done. Flat systems are getting older by the minute, what’s the future like? The future is pictures. Now here’s my prediction. It’s not like the Metro language hasn’t changed or evolved since it’s inception. It has changed quite a bit. With pictures doing most of the talking, something tells me, this is going to be the next big thing in UI.
HTC was clever with BlinkFeed, a scroll-upwards UI, showing you all your Social Feeds in one go. Again, it’s a leaf they’ve taken from Microsoft, from the famous Live Tile concept
If you thought Android looked a lot like iOS, I wouldn’t blame you. It is, after all, poor man’s iOS. Microsoft didn’t want to follow suit. Their Windows Mobile division wasn’t doing exceptionally well either. They needed a bomb, a radical new approach to design, an idea. And that was Windows Phone’s Metro UI (now known as Modern UI).
Here’s the change in pictures…