With the advent of smartphones and tablets and with their tight integration into our (online) lives, a natural need arose to optimize the content on the internet in such way that it is more easily and elegantly presentable on handheld devices. The idea of responsive design came fairly quickly, as one of the most logical solutions to the problem of adapting website content to look good on all screen sizes.
However, synchronously with this change in web design paradigm, another idea gathered a lot of attention from design professionals. Existent for quite some time (after all, the whole concept is not truly original) but first brought into the spotlight by Google’s information hub, Google Now, the idea of cards which stand for chunks of information which are easily digestible and just sufficiently informative spread like wildfire in the world of web and mobile app design.
It would not be fair to call Google Now a new idea, either. After all, information hubs are a pretty old thing on the internet, and Apple’s Siri, a hugely popular (albeit often disputed) iOS virtual personal assistant does almost exactly the same thing: informs the user about weather, traffic and provides them with quick access to search engines and latest news. However, the way Google organized this hub is something worth taking a closer look at. ‘Now’ aggregates the content from sources deemed relevant by analyzing the user’s search habits, breaks this content down to useful bits of information and then re-assembles the content as an endless stream of info cards.
This re-aggregation of content enables Google Now to always stay relevant and never offer too much redundant information to the user who wants to be informed quickly and on the go. Cards are easy to dismiss so they do not clutter the experience, and the user can also choose if the presented content really suits their needs and tell Google to filter the future cards accordingly.
It seems that Google has really struck a chord with this. Android Lollipop, the newest edition of the search giant’s mobile operating system will be completely organized around the idea of cards, with system notifications following the pattern.
But not only Google is pushing for the new design paradigm: Twitter shows a clear intention of presenting the user generated content in autonomous units. Facebook’s design is more and more card oriented, both on the web and in the official mobile apps. There are even whole web applications based around the idea of card interface. Pinterest, for example, lets its users organize content in what the network’s creators call pins, but what are essentially cards featuring an image and a caption.
It seems that cards, in the web design sense, appeal to modern people who are constantly on the move, people who could not wait to get up from their desktop computers and forget about them after smartphones appeared. Cards offer quick and easily accessible information in the world where only this kind of information can have a certain chance of successfully reaching us. This is their appeal and the reason why we can expect to see them around for a long time.