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I mean old in the time-line of GUI, not human history.

The modern design trend is minimal widgets and minimal chrome, where as older design trend are heavier on buttons and chrome.

Did Microsoft miss that memo with Ribbon? Not only do they pack way more than your average toolbar in there, they also resort to packing even more buttons into your titlebar.

But I'm sure you know that trendiness is cyclical. I just want off the treadmill.

Is this essentially a fashion choice then? Is there an underlying reason for minimal widgets and chrome?

Yes. It's a pervasive attitude as of late that "users are stupid; so kill all the options for choice" and "older = worse; newer = better"

Think of it like learning Dvorak. Sure, in theory, by some arbitrary histrionics, these new UIs are 3% more "effective". There's no real objective proof of it, but people just feel like it is. And hell, maybe it really is! So to gain that 3% advantage, they want you to throw out 20 years of muscle memory and familiarity. They want you to throw away all that you're used to and retrain yourself again and again. And sure, maybe after enough time, you might actually like it a little bit more. But all of the time you've wasted relearning everything will never make up for the tiny, marginal increase in efficiency you gained. Nor for all you had to give up to get there.

But this attitude of eternal improvement never ends. You jump on Dvorak because it's such an improvement, and you spend months, maybe years, getting up to your native speed again ... and along comes Colemak, but now it has competition with Workman. Which do you choose? Colemak or Workman? Gnome 3 or Unity? Gotta throw away that Qwerty and Dvorak mechanical keyboard; gotta throw away all those old GTK2 UIs; and start over.

The infinitesimal, unscientific usability enhancements are so subjective as to be irrelevant. Change certainly favors the young, and is hardest on the older generations; but true positive change has historically been accomplished incrementally through evolution (Windows 3.1 - XP, parts of 7). Yet nowadays, it's trying for revolution. Choice is no longer en vogue. And this attitude is ... pervasive. And that is absolutely terrifying.

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