Redundant redundancy in UI design

I’m all for ease-of-use and intuitive user-interface (UI) design. Usability is my middle name. Well, actually, Rex is my middle name, but whatever.

However, my desktop is getting confusing, now that we’ve started the journey from browser-based interactions with the cloud-thing to app-based interactions with the cloud-thing. In some ways, such apps are merely micro-browsers, focused on a narrow niche of functions that interact with a specific set of data on the cloud. We understand this concept on iPads and iPhones. Mac users are beginning to get a taste of  what happens when the iPad / apps approach heads to the desktops of networked computers (data on the cloud, light-weight client software on the desktop).

In an effort to make things obvious to the user, UI designers are starting to stamp-out design-by-number app interfaces. The image above displays two client/apps I’ve been using for a while and one I’ve just downloaded. I use, from right-to-left,  a wonderful email client (that Apple should  buy to replace its Mail client) called Sparrow, the Mac Twitter app, and on the left, Raven, a new app that’s actually a  web browser for organizing apps (very meta, as they say).

However, as the image above also demonstrates, not only are Sparrow and Raven UI clones of Twitter (which is also quite derivative of many other apps), Sparrow and Raven felt the need to give their products names that, like Twitter, evoke fine feathered creatures.

Can we at least move on to fish names?

  • Users don’t always accept drastic [innovative] changes in UI, so developers feel compelled to play it safe and imitate many of the UI concepts.

  • I agree. However, when you have 4-5 of these open on your desktop (I didn’t show Reeder, for example), the result is a *confusing* user-experience. The challenge is for UI designers and developers to consider this emerging context and start thinking that visual cues like colors or, at least, various icon treatments, might be required for their open app not to look like every other open app.