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Is timeless UI design a thing? (imaginarycloud.com)
273 points by sandrobfc 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 168 comments



Here's the inspiration for that article: http://www.aisleone.net/

A very good and reknown site about the international style.

Apart from the Swiss stuff, or the beginnings at the Bauhaus most people know about, the Ulm school of design is interesting for the holistic approach to design.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulm_School_of_Design

My personal feeling is that we're already leaving the reincanation of the international style (when it comes to UI), and are moving "back" into Art Nouveau or Jugendstil, digital with a analog touch (this will be huge with AR I think, because it blends both worlds). AR is the medium where skeumorphism will reinvent itself I think, it's natural and at home in that environment.


> AR is the medium where skeumorphism will reinvent itself I think, it's natural and at home in that environment.

Sure, but after that it will make way once again for more symbolic interfaces with higher information density and more convenient interaction, just like every other pendulum swing since the invention of the computer mouse. A new, unfamiliar medium needs to borrow from established interfaces until it develops its own conventions, and skeumorphism is probably the easiest approach for this phase.


> A new, unfamiliar medium needs to borrow from established interfaces until it develops its own conventions, and skeumorphism is probably the easiest approach for this phase.

That's a really interesting point, and makes for a good general explanation of design trends over time. Did you come up with it yourself?


That's the general concept of skeumorphism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeuomorph


It was pretty much off the cuff, yeah. :)


I was thinking about stuff like real books or paper that fill with digital information, comparable to timecoded vinyl for DJs, where the analog haptics are conserved and combined with digital advantages. The glasses you wear may be able to detect objects in the real world (like paper), and overlay digital information in a way that seems natural.

What I mean that this will be preferred over a virtual window floating in space.


I think the last high point (in terms of popularity) for the International style was around the redesign for iOS 7. Since then designers have moved away from it. It’s still not a revival of iOS 1-6 style skeumorphism, but there is more emphasis on things like drop shadows. Even Windows 10 seems to have backed away a bit from the Windows 8 style (though the Metro design seems more Scandinavian than International).

I think responsive design and the variety of device sizes make Swiss design rather difficult. Swiss design is all about using a well defined grid (see Josef Müller-Brockmann). Responsive design, different device sizes, dynamic text size, accessibility features, etc. make this very difficult to implement. Not to mention limitations in technology and APIs (e.g. the difficulty in grid layouts before flexbox and grid).


> Swiss design is all about using a well defined grid (see Josef Müller-Brockmann).

I think that Swiss graphic design is more about whitespace, a limited amount of information density, where the grid is just a tool that helps with defining that space.


When the Panama Canal was nearing completion, there was talk of adding decoration, and a group of artists and sculptors was sent to look at the locks. They came back with a report. The entire project had been designed to be purely functional with no attention to decoration. Adding any decoration would be superfluous and would make it look worse. So, no stone lions or fluted columns or brass eagles or obelisks. Just the huge masses of poured concrete and steel, and the whitewashed control buildings with tan tile roofs. They still look good after a century of operation.


I would have gone the other direction and tried to hide it like a power substation behind trees or something landscapish.

I was going to mention the water pumping station that looks like a house but the canal would need a really big house.

https://sploid.gizmodo.com/this-normal-looking-house-is-fake...


In Victorian England, utility buildings had rather elaborate designs. Abbey Mills Pumping Station is one of the most elaborate, but a lot of 19th and early 20th century utility buildings have a lot more style than those built today.

https://lookup.london/inside-abbey-mills-pumping-station/


Pumping station in Buenos Aires is pretty too - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Water_Company_Palace


Roger Scruton's thoughts on beauty renewed my interest in decoration.

His argument that stuck with me is that what we value as the most beautiful things in nature such as meadow flowers and birds of paradise, is due to their decoration. Decoration's purpose is to seduce you. It is in decoration that we experience beauty, lust and love. Decoration is a path to the heights of human experience so we should take it seriously and not carelessly dismiss it.

I have never heard someone say the panama canal is beautiful. No image or emotion comes to mind besides the will of humanity to cut through a continent for money.


And on the other hand the grand canal in Venice is celebrated just to point out canals can look good https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Canal_(Venice)

It has a lot of decorative stuff in the form of buildings down the sides.

Maybe if you wanted to prettify the Panama you could stick something like the Marina Bay Sands by it https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=marina+bay+sands&num=30&so...


Consider as counterpoint Hoover Dam. The art deco sculptures of Oskar J.W. Hansen mark an age, but haven't become dated.


These artists must've really hated money. Unless they were paid in advance for any decorations that need to be made.


That, or perhaps they were principled and recognised a pure thing that they didn't want to ruin with needless flourishes.


If by good you mean “an ugly concrete scar” then sure.

It hasn’t got worse over time however - it was hideous then and is still awful - so I guess your point stands.


It's probably been discussed to death, and I apologize if you are rolling your eyes at its mere mention: I really, really like the Solarized colour scheme.

It's now deeply ingrained into my "visual muscle memory" that a terminal without Solarized just looks wrong to me. Even text editors look strange and jarring without those familiar and soothing colours.

It's interesting that the colours in that Swiss Style Color Picker (linked from the article) seem to be taken from a similar visual family of colours (shades? hues? I am not literate in colour's language).


I used solarized exclusively for several years in text editors and the terminal. But after some years I couldn't stand looking at those blue-ish hues all day. Nowadays I use gruvbox [1] the text editor (but still stick to solarized in the terminal). Gruvbox really is a nice change with it's orange and brown, warm colors, I cannot recommend it enough.

[1] https://github.com/morhetz/gruvbox


Solarized has never worked for me, but gruvbox looks interesting. It looks like it's reducing the blue light from the screen, which might help with sleep problems. It looks a bit like my normal theme after f.lux[1] starts in the evening. (Normally I switch between tender[2] and louver[3].)

[1] https://justgetflux.com/

[2] https://github.com/jacoborus/tender.vim

[3] http://jstap.web.fc2.com/louver.html


Hey that is really good. I am going to give that a try in Atom and VSCode.

Thank you! May your code be forever clean, and your backups forever valid :)


If you get it working in VSCode, do share the config template!


I can't look at Solarized for more than a couple seconds, my eyes don't know where to look for some reason. I'm a big fan of the simple Monokai.


I too was a proponent of Solarized, but it has intercolor contrast issues when a blue light filter (Flux / Night Shift / Night Light) is active. I wholeheartedly recommend Oceanic Next instead. The colors itself are also less intense, which is a huge boon :)


I tried it multiple times but the contrast is too low for me.

I've been using a custom RailsCasts-derived (no red!) color scheme for many years, here's a version for VS: https://studiostyl.es/schemes/kodkod


Thank you, I will try that out on VSCode. I've found a bunch of fascinating colour styles in this thread, I'm really glad I made my initial comment :)

It may be a double-edged sword though; I'm now looking at Solarized with a much more critical eye.


I once read a rather compelling argument against syntax coloring. The primary idea was that it's hard to keep it consistent and thus you'll be getting different visual cues every time, thus confusing your visual memory. I actually follow this advice and I'd say it works for me: I don't need any coloring in code. (I only use rather simple coloring on web pages and now, actually, I think I should at least make it optional.)


The thing that bothered me about solarized was the lack of contrast with some of its colors. The light blue on dark blue can be painful to read.

Hydrangea is a somewhat similar theme I enjoy a lot more. https://github.com/yuttie/hydrangea-vim


I agree. Solarized was developed with objectivity in mind, but the choice of a dark-blue and light-beige background colors are completely arbitrary. I use a modified solarized palette with #444444 background and it works fine.


I still like white or off white background, black text and a little color which has kind of stood the test of centuries of use.

Here's a bit of the St Cuthbert Gospel from 1315 years ago https://wiganlanebooks.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/st-c...

and somewhat similar in sublime text (Calydon light) https://packagecontrol.io/readmes/img/5621a2861cccff9b1d2d2b...



I’ve seen a recent trend of terminals with red backgrounds that I’m starting to like more than Solarized. It’s not quite as soothing, but easier to focus.


That sounds interesting, and somewhat counter-intuitive, I'd definitely like to see an example you've encountered. :) (Rather than just Googling some random example)


> shades? hues? I am not literate in colour's language

It's a mess, there are multiple terms that have precise meanings sometimes.


Thank you. I was vaguely aware of different meanings, and I didn't want to use a term that I wasn't sure of its exact meaning.

(That stems from my ongoing frustration with people mixing up terms in various IT arenas like trouble tickets or design documents. "The server is down" can mean a hundred different things depending on who is saying it, and spending time teasing out the true meaning of a bug report or Jira issue can be maddening!)


I used to use solarized everywhere but I've mostly switched to Zenburn. I didn't have a very good reason, I just got tired of Solarized


Zenburn is great! I've used it for many years (I don't like Solarized, for some reason), and then last year I made a blue-ish offshoot of it: https://github.com/mvarela/Sunburn-Theme, which I use nowadays.


There is most certainly timeless user-interface design.

Look at a book from 500 years ago compared to a book today. While the underlying tech is completely changed, the fundamental principles of book-user interaction remain the same.

A lamp in the 1920’s had a screw bulb and a switch.

The piano has kept 88 keys and 3 pedals for centuries.

The asdf keyboard layout will never change.

When it comes to website design, we see some standardization happening across the industry for what a website ought to be. I expect the homogenization will continue as websites get measured for business results and find local optima for solving the various problems.


> A lamp in the 1920’s had a screw bulb and a switch.

The bayonet mount is alive in most of the English-speaking world (except for North America). It has been mostly phased out in France but it can still be found.

> The asdf keyboard layout will never change.

I wish more people knew that the asdf keyboard layout isn't something universal. I can't play games that use the wasd keys without allowing remapping because of that.


>> A lamp in the 1920’s had a screw bulb and a switch.

> The bayonet mount is alive in most of the English-speaking world (except for North America). It has been mostly phased out in France but it can still be found.

And right now we're at a time where LEDs are rolled out everywhere, giving much more free hands to lamp designers.


All that is likely to achieve is either very expensive replacements, instead of commodity priced bulbs, as they can be manufacturer specific. Or entirely sealed units making the entire lamp or fitting disposable.

The market and lamp designers have done this already with LED desk lamps and many formerly standard fittings.

This is not progress, and is both environmentally and financially abusive.


Putting LEDs into an E27 bulb is a really bad tradeoff. For maximum lifetime, LEDs need to stay cool. So you want to space them far apart from another, preferrably soldered on a big metal part that acts as a heat sink, and far away from the transformer. Putting everything into a small package is at odds with that.

So a light with integrated LEDs can have a lifetime that's much longer than one with replaceable bulbs.

Additionally, the total complexity is a lot lower for lights with integrated LEDs. It's just not true that lights without replaceable bulbs are less environmentally friendly -- in many cases it's the opposite.


I'm sure that applies, except "lights without replaceable bulbs are less environmentally friendly" which seems nothing more than wishful thinking.

preferrably soldered on a big metal part

An obvious solution to which would be soldering the LED to a metal connector that mates with a heatsink. We could call it an "LED bulb".

Of the assorted LED bulbs, fittings and sealed LED only products I've so far owned few have got to even 20% of claimed life before colour temperature or brightness has become pitiful. The only exceptions thus far are in my monitors (not exactly room level illumination), and in a few year old torch - but that has usage in hundreds rather than tens of thousands of hours.

So it looks like we really need some replaceable LEDs. Manufacturers would, of course, prefer to sell another desk lamp or kitchen fitting when the LED inevitably deteriorates.


> And right now we're at a time where LEDs are rolled out everywhere, giving much more free hands to lamp designers.

You'd think so, but houses still have bayonet fittings so LED bulbs are standardizing on those (or on screw fittings, I guess, in parts of the world that use those.)

GU10 fittings do seem popular with the smaller bulbs, though. LEDs can get away with using these for higher output bulbs because they're so much more efficient.


It is true, that there are still many lamps with traditional separation between lamp and light using a standardized connector.

However the trend shows that flexibility of directly building in long living LEDs is increasing.

Out of curiosity I was just searching for desk lamps on Amazon and first two pages were all LED-bases, which makes sense, since those are all design elements (sometimes of better, sometimes worse designs) where LED gives lot's of freedom.

Looking for ceiling lights gives a few classic connectors, but also lots of LED.

(This might be accelerated since I'm in EU, which banned classic lightbulbs for energy reasons ... over alternatives which are a waste issue)


The fact that alternatives exist doesn't mean the design isn't timeless


You're just as likely to see a keyboard instrument with 25, 37, 49, 61, 73, or 76 keys as you are 88 these days. Pitch and mod wheels are also a staple of certain kinds of keyboard instruments.

Aftertouch adds pressure sensors. The most advanced form of the keyboard interface at the moment would probably be the ROLI seaboard [1].

I do expect that the 88 key piano will be a staple of music for a long, long time, but I'm not sure I would call it's interface timeless seeing as it's still being modified and adapted to this day.

[1] https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SeaboardG-61--roli-s...


Offtopic:

> The most advanced form of the keyboard interface at the moment would probably be the ROLI seaboard.

Arguably. Some like that it brings new possibilities, others highlight that it comes at a price.

Just like some would call Macbook Pro's Touchbar the most advanced laptop keyboard interface and some wouldn't.


And yet, some random composer or musician from 100's of years ago (Say, one F. Chopin or J.S. Bach) transported to today would have absolutely no problem recognizing and using the instrument.


That's also true. The interface is in fact much older than the piano, having first been used on harpsichords, clavichords, and (I think) pipe organs. If I'm not mistaken, the black+white keyboard we use today was invented around the 1400's. The piano itself dates back only to the 1700's.

I can see the argument for the keyboard being a timeless UI because it's lasted mostly unchanged for about 600 years now.

I can also see the argument that 600 years isn't that long in the scheme of musical instruments. We've found ancient flutes from at least 30,000 years ago. The lyre, popular in ancient Greece, is not that different from a modern harp. Lutes are thought to have been present in Mesopotamia around 3000 BC.

Site note - I was surprised to learn that Bach lived before the piano became popular and apparently did not endorse the instrument until a few years before his death [1]. He would be familiar with the interface from earlier instruments, though.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano#Early_fortepiano


Bach composed for the Harpsichord as well as the pipe organ and was instrumental (pun intended) in bringing about the modern day piano.


I think the principle is still correct considering how much the basic keyboard interface has remained the same.


> Look at a book from 500 years ago compared to a book today. While the underlying tech is completely changed, the fundamental principles of book-user interaction remain the same.

Well, if we went back further, we might get to codices or even scrolls, which are fundamentally different from books in their user interaction.

"never say never" will always be more right than "never".


> The asdf keyboard layout will never change.

I'd take this bet in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, we might be dead before I prove you wrong, so I wouldn't get to collect my winnings.


I am inclined to think that it will last at least as long as the current family of languages. Of course, I also consider this to be a tragedy since it's not a particularly good layout.


Tragic relative to what could have been, amazing relative to what used to be...I mean hey, it could be a pen and paper. ;)


They layout will persist until the keyboards themselves are gone.


Agreed. Although your post reminded me that I just saw a 97-key Bosendorfer. You could feel and actually count the vibrations of the lowest C key!



Surely you mean the QWERTZ layout.


I think he meant QWERTY yeah... Maybe not aware of the reach of AZERTY in the world, and other keyboards.


I think you missed the fact that the person you are replying to uses a German keyboard.


My piano has 92 keys. (Bosendorfer 225). 85 keys was pretty common until the 1920s. And the third pedal is relatively new. Some pianos (Fazioli) have 4 pedals.


Does it go down to the low E?


F


Just a rambling note: that kind of light switch used in the article header is the kind of timeless design I dislike. When the light bulb needs to be replaced I can't tell anymore which position is on or off and if I am getting a burn when screwing the replacement in. It's even worse when there are multiple switches for the same light bulb :D.

Funny thing is that the same experience is conveyed through skeuomorphic interfaces more often than not. /rambling_off


It is very common to have multiple switches controlling the same light (example: two switchs on both side of the bed controlling a single ceiling light).

The position of an electrical switch is not designed to signal the status of what it controls.

Source: I was an electrician apprentice in my teens.

Edit: wiki (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiway_switching)


> The position of an electrical switch is not designed to signal the status of what it controls.

Wouldn’t the right affordance (at least for multiway switches) be a button, then? Especially with an indicator LED in the that is lit by drawing from line voltage, thus showing whether the completed system is on or off.


With that setup you need a central control that the buttons toggle on or off. I imagine that would be more complex than just running a cable from one switch to the next. Not exactly the most user friendly solution, however possibly the cheapest.


Not really. I was imagining a toggle switch button—like the kind that goes in and out to express its state, where the “in” state is literally bridging contacts with the back of the button—but without the in/out state being exposed externally, since it’s not accurate to the state of the system as a whole. Instead, it would be a spring-loaded toggle where the spring is less compressed when on and more compressed when off, to make the button face remain at the same push-depth either way, while still having an in-out switch behind it. Like the mechanical NumLock key on early keyboards.

So each switch-button is still connected in series; all the LED indicator faces on the switches are powered by line voltage of the circuit; and so, when the circuit is completed, all the switches become lit; and when any switch is toggled, the circuit is broken, and so no LED is then receiving power.


You can have a mechanical button toggle the position of the interior switching hardware. Every press will flip the switch inside to the opposite path. Like the button on top of a retractable pen.

Maybe a bit more complicated; there are moving parts required to index the action. But doable without extra wiring or centralized control.


A button closes (or opens) a circuit for a short while and then goes back. This is not the expected behavior.


If my electrician installed half of the single switch circuits with the switch upside down I wouldn't ask him to come back for the next job.


You are missing the point, it’s a feature not a bug.

Single-switch is commonly installed with the top-pressed-in meaning “on”. For multiway-switch the position is not a status indicator. Both types of switches can be present in multiple places around the house. Thus, position of “a switch” is not an indicator.

Example: my living room light panel (Vancouver, build circa. 2005). All lights are on in both pictures: http://imgur.com/8CTZOHZ


In some hotels of the world, light switches always go back to their default position upon toggle. It is counterintuitive that there's one and only one affordance to turn off a light and to turn it on.


Within a house they should be consistent. But I have some American friends in Europe with their switches wired the US way.


Using lighted switches, I'm pretty sure that one could have both switches lit when the light was off, and both switches dark when the light was on.


I consider that a feature in a way.

For a very long time I had the opinion because the German plugs are reversible they are inferior in design however what I learned is that it encouraged safer device design because it both line and neutral are not exposed on devices as a result.

Similar rules apply to bulbs: since you generally cannot tell safely if a a switch is on or off it encouraged the installation of RCDs and mandatory wiring plans that let you switch off parts of the installation.


Oh, in Norway at least, I believe the norm is to wire the light switches so that when it tilts inwards (top part closest to the wall), the light is on.

I haven’t looked up the electric code to see whether it is a requirement, but it definitely is considered best practice. I’d suspect other countries, too, to have some sort of preference, whether codified or not.


In America we tend to do the same. Problems arise when you have multiple switches toggling a single light though. If one switch is ON and the other is OFF and the light is ON, then when you flip the OFF switch to ON the light will turn OFF. And when they are both ON, to actually turn the light ON, you need to flip one of the switches to be OFF


Not just Norway, it is exceedingly common everywhere in the world.

Down is off, up is on. Alternatively - press on the down part to switch off, press at the top part to switch on.


It's the opposite in Australia: "down" is on; "up" is off. This is nominally off: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_switch#/media/File:Austr...


It's the opposide in Denmark. Top pressed in, the switch is off.

https://i.imgur.com/TWH1YjY.jpg


Off-topic, but I find the sockets and switches in Denmark to be weird. They are so different from the ones in Norway and Sweden. Maybe newer houses are more similar to here, but I've mostly seen those you posted in Denmark. The socket is basically just two holes.


This system of sockets is unique to Denmark, and it is still used. However, the Schuko system was allowed to be installed, a few years back.

Source: Me, danish electrician.


Light switches should disappear. Lights should turn themselves on as needed or when asked to.


"Computer, turn the lights on"

Star Trek is not anymore what it used to be.


It's "Computer, lights!" and we're still not close to Star Trek, because our computing is ridiculously fragmented. Instead of a unified, configurable system doing our bidding, we have a whole ecosystem of apps that try to be everything but helpful. Can you imagine captain Picard saying, "computer, tell Hue to turn on the lights", or "computer, tell Northrop Grumman® Unified Weapons Platform™ to charge Phasers™"?


"Hey Google, turn on the lights!" works just fine.


UI Design can be timeless in the sense that it becomes the adopted standard for specific usage by a given culture and that this culture by default uses the solution so much that everyone knows it's meaning.

It's however not because of some objective universal criteria but instead that no other solution has been needed which made it worth changing that standard.

Intuition is learned within the confines of the culture that understand the reference.

The desktop metaphor isn't timeless it's just one that society has invested enough time that it becomes shared understanding

In that sense, it's not different than a language where no specific word or sentence or meaning is objective in itself but rather points to something that "everyone" understands.


This gets at the crux of it, if you take "timeless" literally:

UI is culture. And what made culture is timeless? The undergraduate discussion group might hit on Shakespeare, the Pyramids, the King James Bible, or Portal II. In the end there's no common ground except that the value of culture itself is context-sensitive.

Anyway, it's all a red herring because "timeless" in this article is misused; the author just means "classic"


An ancient Sumerian ledger:

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1250/0*7LNb7XKpR6vAdsBH....

A ledger from the 1700s:

https://recordoffice.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/d2375m-277-...

I think there are some UIs that almost perfectly fit the function; and they are the candidates for timelessness.


The ancient Sumerian one looks a bit like Excel.

I think there are some limitation as to how you can lay stuff out and what the human brain is happy with. It's not all culture.

Like with a lot of sites with flashy weird shit I use a reader view extension to make it look like books and pages have looked for centuries. Not so much because its the fashion but it's just clearer that way.


These are extreme exceptions and hardly the point of the article.


Yup agree. Classic is a much better expression as it doesn't falsely imply some sort of objective criteria.


> Remember the round cornered buttons? Yeah, I remember too. The only way it's okay for a designer to use them now is if it's #ironic. So keep it functional, not decorative. The round corners were never suiting any purpose.

But you have to choose some shape for them to be; why is square the default/baseline, and round the modification (the one with 'something added')? You could equally well say to, "just use round corners, keep it functional, not decorative—we austere users of the internet don't require any flashy straight-edged ornamentation."

I'm sure someone can give me an argument about how the straight edges make it easier for the eyes to associate aligned items or something like that, but if you're just slightly rounding some rectangles, not using ovals or something, the difference will be negligible.

The problem isn't introducing aesthetic qualities for their own sake—it's only a problem when you exchange something with a concrete purpose because you give higher value to the purely aesthetic thing.

(The quote uses the term 'decorate,' which ordinarily I think is a good choice, since in the case of decorations, you're adding content, which can lead to useless clutter—but! my opening argument here is basically that choosing round over square is not decorative in that sense.)

So, I'm left with the feeling that the quote really just comes down to justifying the newer bandwagon.


>the round corners were never suiting any purpose.

The round corners were serving a very important purpose: to signify that this UI element is a button as opposed to a random square div. Now it's become very hard to tell what's a button and what's not on many websites.


Because squares are much easier to draw than circles.


There's the old story about Steve Jobs and Bill Atkinson where jobs points out rounded corners everywhere: http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=Round_Rects_Are_E...

It do wonder how much CPU power, electricity and carbon emissions have gone into rounded corners over the years, only to have square rectangles came back into fashion.


I think you're right that that has led to people's thinking of rectangles as 'default' (and because they're more traditional, probably for the same reason)—but it's an irrelevant fact now. However you're drawing button these days, it's generally a choice between drawRect(...) or drawRoundRect(...); or of course in CSS you just add one line to define the border-radius.


But round holes are easier to drill than square ones.


My contribution: the Lindy effect applies to design.

The longer something has been considered good design, the longer it is likely to remain good design.

If a design has been good for 100 years, it'll probably be good for another 100 years.

If a design has only been good for a year or two, you should expect that it'll have a much shorter lifespan.


I learned that as The Copernican Principle from Algorithms to Live by. Also based on a power law distribution.

As in we are not special. If we know nothing about the lifetime of an object, we on average can expect to show up precisely halfway into the thing.


Out of curiosity, what are some examples of "100 year" designs?

Bicycles come to mind.


Watches


Bathtub


Some examples of what I consider timeless (and good) UI on the internet:

* Hacker News (duh)

* c2 wiki

* Wikipedia (it changes, but thankfully not radically)

I would have added Reddit, but alas. Seeing how they plan to change to that... other thing makes me really sad.

Anything else?


Hacker News is a miserable experience on mobile. Even on desktop, the upvote/downvote buttons are needlessly small and give no confirmation; I often find myself clicking "unvote" because I wasn't sure if I upvoted or downvoted.


I agree with you. Partly this is because mobile browser vendors have made some really annoying decisions (zoom doesn't reflow text).

But an upvote gives you an [unvote] button, a downvote gives you an [undown] button.


Don’t forget how Code snippets require lots of horizontal scrolling on mobile. It’s bad but understandable when it’s actual code, but it’s just aweful when someone is using code formatting to represent a quote.


> It’s bad but understandable when it’s actual code

My 80 column terminal does not need horizontal scrolling on wide code. Why does my browser need it?


The materialistic hn app is what I've been using for a while (and right now, actually). But i also saw several other readers for the site. Worth looking into one of them if you look at posts on the go a lot.


But haven't c2 wiki changed for a slightly worse? Don't get me wrong - it's still better than most. It's now client side rendered. Also there was a short time after it introduced this change, when it looked far more wonky.

It's not a coincidence that all those pages could as good work with minimal CSS. That's why I would like to see a pure HTML cross-platform web browser. With nice proportional fonts and good support for media. It could even try to do some more complex typesetting. So links/lynx and other console browser do not cut it. Dillo AFAIK is no longer developed and it's not available on mobile.

Side rant:

I hate the recent trend with adding those obnoxious position:fixed or sticky bars at the top. All this fight to reduce browser chrome (from which Chrome takes it's name) has given web-designers more space to waste. It's horrible when one has: a wide-screen monitor, a small monitor, not full-screen window, a smartphone, a smartphone with a virtual keyboard visible. So pretty much always...

On this hypothetical HTML-only browser it wouldn't obscure the content. Just as all those newsletter, cookies and GDPR consent overlays.


>That's why I would like to see a pure HTML cross-platform web browser. With nice proportional fonts and good support for media.

I assume you are not using Firefox? Then you should, because it has Reader View mode, which removes all the JS BS, but leaves the text and the figures in. Not sure about <audio> and <video>, but it's a real blessing. I don't know how Chrome people go without it.

More info here: https://blog.mozilla.org/firefox/reader-view/.


Firefox is close. But. I would like a permanent reader mode. There is an extension like this [0], however it does not yet work on Android, per author.

Also I like the idea of a small, simple and lightning fast package. It would just work and would have a miniscule attack surface. At least comparing with all other browsers.

[0] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/automatic-rea...



Stack Overflow/Exchange is pretty good...the UI doesn't get in the way of doing things. Unfortunately, they have also been making moves away from the content being the most important thing.


The SO UI for participants (rather than people looking for an existing answer) is mediocre-ish to weak. They seem to be a thoughtful lot so I imagine some of it is deliberate but that itself points to more fundamental design problems - making things annoying is better at annoying people than it is at discouraging certain types of user activity.


* Google search (esp. the non-JS version)

* GitHub

* ia.net and some of their work

* dict.cc


Not gonna lie, I find them all pretty bad. Their styles seem optimized for the coder, not the user.


The CamelCase of c2 was efficient for the writer. Not so much for the reader.


c2 before they rolled out their new ridiculous client-side rendering design, yes. Otherwise, I agree with you.

Timeless design is one that exposes the nature of the tool and helps use it to achieve its purpose, with no superfluous elements added.


mcmaster.com is on my shortlist of timeless designs.


IETF RFCs


"Timeless" in the sense of "unchanged for a long time", but IMHO not as "unchanged because they are still great". They are optimized for different times, and needlessly bad to consume today.


Oh, that's a good one. Also W3C documents.


TPS Reports.


suck.com

craigslist.com


Regardless of the TIMELESSNESS of UI design matters having THIRTY percent of TEXT emphasized is REALLY quite annoying.


  Also, styling your own thoughts as quotes makes them more convincing and tweetable!


Agreed. I found it somewhat hard to read since the change in styling caused a mental pause much like a comma would. This made the text stop and start in unexpected places.


Yeah I wasn't sure if I was meant to even read the regular text... And if I was missing things by skipping it.


I find math-based designs to be really appealing for a timeless logo design

A good example of this is twitters design

https://designshack.net/articles/graphics/twitters-new-logo-...


The answer given by the article:

> There's no such thing as timeless design, because it's too dependent on its context, but one can shoot for longevity.

E.g. Obviously, there is no such thing perfectly timeless, as the only universal constant is that things change over time. But one can minimize dependence on current context, and attempt to tap into the slower changing, more fundamental aspects of today's world. In this respect, the artist shares some similarity with the scientist.


To me timeless UI was achieved with Mac OS X Tiger (10.4) and has been eroded with time.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/fi/7/75/Mac_OS_X_10.4...


Brushed metal? No thanks.


This really needs to be a thing with OS ui.

Changing UI in gnome world, and linux world in general is a real problem. Why can't stuff just stay where I rememeber it is!

Mac OS does quite well in this area, at least compared to windows and linux. It still maintains familiar menus, while the look and feel still looks modern.


Although applications changing is still a problem, I quite strongly disagree that Linux desktops are always changing. Unlike NT and Darwin, Linux lets you run whatever desktop environment you want, including all the old ones. I have a co-worker who has been using some offshoot of twm (I forget which) for literally decades with almost no changes.


I agree, but the old DEs feel old to use, because well, they're old. Mac still feels modern.


> It still maintains familiar menus, while the look and feel still looks modern.

Modern Windows menu UX is most certainly is not constistent, but Ubuntu linux is. In contrast i do feel MacOS looks very old fashioned for a long time.


Which Ubuntu Linux? The gnome one or unity one? I liked untiy too, it was almost perfect. But gnome3 messed it up for everyone.

Even though the unity desktop elements remain the same, unity still relies on gnome apps, like nautilus. I don't think I need to state the problems with gnome apps, you can read more about that here:

https://medium.com/@probonopd/make-it-simple-linux-desktop-u...


The web & almost any gui lacks one important characteristics for timelessness - simply: time.

What we consider timeless in other desogn disciplines are patterns that emerged throughout many centuries of cultural transformation.

Digital UI is not only much much younger, it also enables sheer endless variation of any functional pattern, arbitrary design.

I would argue much of the UX patterns we established so far, be it the button or a slideshow, windows & menus, all these UI conventions are barebone concepts that already are timeless - and when it comes to styling, looks, it's very well possible to design in a way that is already timeless, it's just paint. And some of today's design schools will become timeless in time


Please if you ever succeed in any timeless design, please don't make it like the linked article.

It's horrible, it takes like 1/4th of the screen horizontally, with majority of the space taken by the blank spots.

I don't know why people nowadays make everything look awful so it looks "the same" on all devices.

Please don't do that. It makes it more difficult to estimate the length of the text, it's irritating since you need to scroll constantly and it looks bad.


The link posted above is an AMP link. Maybe try removing the AMP? It looks like it uses about 2/3 of the browser width that way, much better.

Also, about blank spots: do you mean in between the sections of text? Maybe is an issue with the [goddamn] lazy-load graphics?


I mean the page layout. A single very narrow column and a lots of unused space all around it. I have full sized screen, I shouldn't be constrained as if I was on mobile.

EDIT: you are right, it's the AMP version which makes it like that, without /amp it looks like normal web page.


It comes down to designing according to a set of principles, rather than fads. Then, you use the best available tools to align as tightly to those principles as possible.

It doesn't have to be boring either. A principle of Wired in the early 90s was to be outrageous and loud. Clashing colors and unreadable type completely aligned with their principles - and it was great.

When new technology comes around, you evolve if it allows you to get closer to your principles.

Look at fashion – as full of fads as anything. Yet there are timeless items: well constructed denim; simple and unadorned. A basic, nicely cut tee-shirt. A simple black dress. Oxfords, Vans. Why are they timeless? Because they align with principles that are unchanging: Simple, honest, functional, versatile, easy to maintain.

And if your fashion principle is to stand out, then yea, each individual item of clothing will not be timeless. But the principle will be.

Same applies to design in any medium.


So apply these designs to the principles from the brutalist post the other day and you have a site that looks good and is easy to use.


> Remember the round cornered buttons? Yeah, I remember too. The only way it's okay for a designer to use them now is if it's #ironic.

What am I missing here? The latest guidelines for Material Design and iOS have round corner buttons.


This feels like a subset of The Design of Everyday Things with some specific additions for corporate logos, it's unclear to me if the author has read the book or is unfamiliar with it and unintentionally references the first chapter in the conclusion.


Have not yet seen a full UI that have not undergone change. But, there are UI elements that have stand the test of time.

The best example I can think of is Letters and Numbers. We have been using them for a long time to communicate and interact with each other.


I like rounded corners.

Arguably they serve a purpose; easier on the eyes when you have groups of elements.


I am a programmer, and I think I'd like to pivot into design/graphic design/ux/etc. I just want to make pretty stuff. I want to make cool looking stuff. Is there any advice some of you can impart?


Don't forget colorblindness. That's an easy one to accidentally end up where they can't distinguish parts of the page from each other.

One of the other devs at work has regularly pointed out issues with our prior designers' work, when he couldn't tell what was what.


Is hipster UI design a thing?


Is it?


Ever used Snapchat?


Good point.


A clock face is a timeless UI


No - every UI becomes stale after years of use. Just ask apple.


> The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that it's all learned.


This turns out to be wildly inaccurate: my mother's profession -- lactation consultant -- wouldn't exist if humans had an intuition about this.

(80% of her work is in getting positioning right; this is the sort of thing that new mothers used to learn by having lots of public and family examples to follow.)


That's about the interface not knowing how to, so to speak, "configure itself"˚; it's not about the user -- the baby -- failing to use the interface.

˚With apologies for the literal objectification.


Objectification aside, that seems wrong; while there is obviously instinctive behavior involved (on both sides), both sides also need learned behavior for it to work well; the instinctive component is enough to get to the point where learning has a high enough success rate in the wood that humanity didn't die out from all out idiotic starving to death, but it's not the whole story.


That quote confuses “intuitive” with “instinctive”; “intuitive” means that it is usable by intuition, which is largely, but perhaps not entirely, learned (though much of it involves applying learned patterns outside of the context in which they were learned), not by instinct, which is inborn. Intuition might be viewed as including instinct as a non-learned component, but it is not at all identical to instinct.


“Intuitive = uses readily transferred, existing skills.” — Jef Raskin, Intuitive equals familiar, 1994

doi:10.1145/182987.584629 or https://www.asktog.com/papers/raskinintuit.html


Breastfeeding is not intuitive for mother or baby.


I don't know why you got downvoted, that was one of the best quote I've heard about design... I learnt the gestalt and that's basically the gist of it all.




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