Cards are fast becoming the best design pattern for mobile devices.
We are currently witnessing a re-architecture of the web, away from pages and destinations, towards completely personalised experiences built on an aggregation of many individual pieces of content. Content being broken down into individual components and re-aggregated is the result of the rise of mobile technologies, billions of screens of all shapes and sizes, and unprecedented access to data from all kinds of sources through APIs and SDKs. This is driving the web away from many pages of content linked together, towards individual pieces of content aggregated together into one experience.
The aggregation depends on:
- The person consuming the content and their interests, preferences, behaviour.
- Their location and environmental context.
- Their friends’ interests, preferences and behaviour.
- The targeting advertising eco-system.
If the predominant medium of our time is set to be the portable screen (think phones and tablets), then the predominant design pattern is set to be cards. The signs are already here…
Twitter is moving to cards
Twitter recently launched Cards, a way to attached multimedia inline with tweets. Now the NYT should care more about how their story appears on the Twitter card (right hand in image above) than on their own web properties, because the likelihood is that the content will be seen more often in card format.
Google is moving to cards
With Google Now, Google is rethinking information distribution, away from search, to personalised information pushed to mobile devices. Their design pattern for this is cards.
Everyone is moving to cards
Pinterest (above left) is built around cards. The new Discover feature on Spotify (above right) is built around cards. Much of Facebook now represents cards. Many parts of iOS7 are now card based, for example the app switcher and Airdrop.
The list goes on. The most exciting thing is that despite these many early card based designs, I think we’re only getting started. Cards are an incredible design pattern, and they have been around for a long time.
Cards give bursts of information
Cards as an information dissemination medium have been around for a very long time. Imperial China used them in the 9th century for games. Trade cards in 17th century London helped people find businesses. In 18th century Europe footmen of aristocrats used cards to introduce the impending arrival of the distinguished guest. For hundreds of years people have handed around business cards.
We send birthday cards, greeting cards. My wallet is full of debit cards, credit cards, my driving licence card. During my childhood, I was surrounded by games with cards. Top Trumps, Pokemon, Panini sticker albums and swapsies. Monopoly, Cluedo, Trivial Pursuit. Before computer technology, air traffic controllers used cards to manage the planes in the sky. Some still do.