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New User Interface Design Patterns in App Design

07th December 2011
By pidoco1 in Business Law
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Inspired by the Smashing Magazine blog post.

Apple has long been a trendsetter in setting user interface patterns. Considering that they popularized graphical user interfaces this is hardly surprising. From the beginning Apple has been pro-active in setting user interface design guidelines for UI designers. However the tables seem to be turning somewhat as user interface design innovations from third-party developers become adopted by other user interface designers. Normally Apple would introduce a new user interface design paradigm, such as “Aqua” when they released the first iteration of Mac OS X. Thankfully for UI designers Apple would eat their own dog food by incorporating their new user interface design standards first thus setting the tone. This is one of the major reasons why many Mac apps had (and still do) a consistent look and feel. A great example of this is Apple's own iLife suite of apps in general and iPhoto in particular.

How did iPhoto set a user interface design standard on the Mac?

iPhoto's user interface design has been adopted by a number of Mac applications with an image gallery, such as LittleSnapper and Flickery. Both share a gray left sidebar used for navigation complete with similar color-coding for the various buttons. Sadly this color-coding was removed from the user interface design of iTunes in favor of a completely grayscale look. It remains to be seen whether Apple plans to roll out this UI design to the other iLife apps. Other user interface design similarities include a slider at the bottom right of the UI design to change the size of images in the image gallery pane. The user interface design of Apple apps have always served as UI design suggestions, which were in turn adopted by others. In the particular case of iTunes' grayscale interface design I hope this doesn't happen as it lowers usability where the navigation buttons are concerned.

How have third-party user interface designers began to set UI design patterns on the Mac?

Occasionally there has always been a third party applications featuring a user interface design that would go on to set UI design standards. Examples include Transmit and Quicksilver's influence on the user interface design of FTP clients and launchers respectively. A more recent example of a third party app setting user interface design standards is the Tweetie app. The Twitter client app would prove so popular that other non-Twitter apps would pay the sincerest form of flattery by imitating its UI design. Twitter itself would go on to buy it and make it the official Twitter Mac and iOS client. Examples of non-Twitter clients that would adopt Tweetie's user interface design are the Sparrow e-mail client and the Reeder RSS client. Reeder would also set some user interface design standards of its own among RSS clients because, incidentally, the Tweetie-like UI design was added later as a mini-view.

What could be some of the reasons why third party user interface designers and developers are able to set UI design standards?

A lot of the third party apps that are setting UI design standards tend to either be Mac or iOS apps. Their influence is closely tied to the iPhone and the revolutionary App Store. With the introduction of the Mac App Store there is an increasing trend in Mac apps that are following the user interface design of the aforementioned Tweetie and Reeder. This is even more the case with apps that incorporate UI design settings of the new Mac OS X “Lion”. There is, however, a very contentious issue regarding user interface standards set by third party developers and that is intellectual property. Apple purposefully wants developers to adopt their user interface design standards but third party developers (fanboys rather) might not take too kindly to someone copying their UI designs. However if every single app had its own unique user interface design usability would suffer. Thankfully the creators of Tweetie and Reeder seem to be content on creating better user interface designs though I fear that the day might come when litigation is brought forward by a third party developer.

About The Author:
================== – Interface Design, Wireframe, Wireframes, Wireframe Software, Interface Design Software, Online Wireframe Tool, Wireframe Tool, Interface Prototyping, Clickable Wireframes, Usability Testing and Digital Paper Prototyping. User centered design for improved User Interface Design. Read More:
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