In 2012, we saw the mainstream emergence of a new form of digital interfaces and storytelling -- one that combines the power of technology with compelling visual narratives designed to drive extended user engagement. The rapid proliferation of smartphone and tablet devices into the marketplace has had a profound impact on how users consume and engage with digital content. At the same time, it has had an equally significant influence on how developers are approaching digital design -- capitalizing on the unique, native sensory features of these devices (such as tap and swipe) and by elevating the prominence of larger visual formats such as photos.
It comes as no surprise that some of 2012's greatest success stories are from those that have embraced these new design principles into the core of the user experience, and consequently experienced phenomenal audience growth and engagement levels. Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flipboard and (yes) Facebook have all embraced this design philosophy, adding in simple layers of social mechanics to help extend the depth and breadth of this highly shareable content.
Perhaps lost in the hyperbole of Facebook’s IPO last year was the dramatic redesign of the Facebook news feed (on the desktop site, but also across their mobile and tablet applications) -- a complete transformation of the user experience that changed the dynamics of social engagement and discovery and also amplified the prominence of visual storytelling for both individuals and brands alike.
In short order, Instagram quickly evolved from a fun and quirky photo app into a community of more than 100 million amateur photo enthusiasts, with more than 7.5 million using the service daily, with much of its distribution occurring across Facebook and Twitter. Founder Kevin Systroms vision to create an “instant telegram” service has clearly been realized and its simplistic yet visually intensive design has done an exceptional job of emphasizing its core photo assets, which has helped fuel extensive consumption and social sharing behaviors.
Toward the end of 2012, Instagram changed their terms of service, incurring the wrath of a large number of users, with some reports suggesting that they had lost over half of active users. While there were probably other reasons for the big drop, the reality is that people do care about the copyright of their content and any compromise of privacy particularly when that is driven by the needs of a new owner such as Facebook. Instagram did subsequently alter some of their changes but it will be interesting to see how their user base evolves.
Finally, the emergence of Pinterest has created yet another major market disruption, but this time it looks a bit different – a simple, elegant and beautifully designed “pinboard” experience that may well represent the still in the early days, the e-commerce effect is real, with Pinterest users spending an average of $179 (vs. Facebook: $80, Twitter: $68) when following through to a purchase from a product seen on the platform. According to Fast Company, it's not a stretch to say that soon, at least on retail sites, a Pinterest button might become as ubiquitous as a Facebook Like.”
A combination of screen size necessity with touch technology features and the increase in time spent on mobile devices has led to an aesthetic revolution in digital design -- one that is both easier on the eye as well as more effective. Expect to see this revolution impact design of user interfaces across all platforms moving forward.
Read the report here.