What are the rationale behind some of the recent Facebook UI changes?

The same rationale that drives all tech companies to change their products: featureitis. If you are maintaining the status quo then you are not evolving and that lack of new features could cost you customers/eyeballs. The problem with featureitis is when it changes what works and adds stuff that doesn’t…. And based on the reaction that Facebook has gotten in the social network that they themselves helped pioneer… Well, much of what they added doesn’t appear to be well received.

Finally, I’d say the real-time ticker is absolutely a direct reaction to Twitter… Whether it is a well-done and successful reaction remains to be seen.

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What are some examples of innovative UI design?

Define “innovative.” Yes, I know, I can go look it up, but I ask in all seriousness. Innovation is a term that is being bandied about so much lately it’s about to become a business cliche, like “paradigm” and “synergy.” And I state this being the design lead in an Innovations Team…

In my humble opinion (hey, you asked, remember?) the real innovation in UI design… In user experience design, specifically, comes when designers create an interface that is absolutely aligned to the mental model and goals of the user. When the interface just let’s the user just do what they want to do. A couple of examples:

Right now I’m typing this in Simplenote, an app on the iPad. The interface is basically a text area and a keyboard. That’s it. Yes, there are additional UI elements that are in the app, but these elements can be quickly dismissed to allow me to do what I am doing right now: write. It’s not as simple or elegant as pen to paper, but it is in many ways better. I write, and in the background it syncs my typing to my iPhone and my desktop. There is no Save button, because it just does that for me. I dare say that the elegance of the UI is that it takes an option AWAY from me.

A second example: My bank’s ATM machine screen Yes, I consider that an innovative UI, because it is so simple and obvious that I can make my choice quickly, rarely make a mistake, and I can accomplish my goal (usually, getting beer money) quickly and easily.

Third example: XBox Kinect. The interface is… You, really. There is no controller, you control the actions on screen. Not all games do this well, but when it works it really works.

Did you notice something in common with all the examples I cited? None of them are web apps. And all share a simple approach – they GET OUT OF THE WAY. You asked about innovative UI designs. Thats not a bad question, but when itcomes to innovation, its not the right focus. We need to rethink UI and interfaces. Completely. Make them seamless, approachable, desirable, and imminently usable.

That is the way we will create the next wave of truly interactive engaging… And, yes, innovative experiences.

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