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3 User Interface Patterns Making a Comeback and 3 on Their Way Out
It's all about delivering the most intuitive experience for users, and knowing when to let go of the past.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if, like in fashion, web design trends came back into style? 

ku-xlargeI can’t be the only UX designer waiting with bated breath for the scrolling ticker’s return. When I log onto the information superhighway to access a geocities site, and I see a news ticker floating across my screen, you just know I’m going to read it. That movement is captivating. Are you still using slick javascript animations to catch your visitor’s eye? That’s so 2014. You heard it here first, 2015 is going to be the year of the scrolling ticker.

While I’m at it, we’re all about engaging content these days right? Well, who can deny the power of music in pulling on the emotional heartstrings? You want to talk next level engagement, try pairing a great blog post with the Star Wars Imperial March theme. It just so happens that the internet of old has a highly accessible, small file size solution – midi samples. Admittedly the sound quality isn’t the greatest, but electronic tones are hot these days, and you can loop them.

These user experience tools were once the apex of design, but where are they now?

We know, it’s all mobile all the time right now; responsive grids, vector sprites, multi-touch gestures for touchscreens. But you know what’s being forgotten in all that? That poor lonesome mouse sitting on your desk. It’s still there, working hard, tracking your every move with that faithful cursor. There was a perfectly good solution for that not too many decades ago – mouse trailers. It would hardly take any development time at all to add a nice visible trail of stars behind the arrow. Or change the arrow to something else entirely, like an oil rig; something that would really resonate with your user persona. You have built a user persona haven’t you? We polled 48 professionals on their interest in this whole mouse trailer topic and our controller conclusively said, and I quote, “I’d like it.”

Now that I’ve had my fun, you’re hopefully still with me and discerned that I was joking. Those trends, like Fox’s glowing hockey puck, will not be returning. Ever.

With those patterns in the past, it’s time we switch our focus to a few UI patterns that are walking the line right now and won’t be with us much longer.

The sooner we as designers find better options than these boot cut jeans of the web, the better.

Homepage Carousels

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 9.08.38 AMThe homepage carousel has been the designer’s tool of choice for years now because it seems to solve a few challenges, namely: it appeases different business units who do battle for prime homepage real estate, and similarly it allows flexibility to communicate multiple topics or promotions when you can’t distill things down to one message.

While stats are limited, there is some consensus forming that carousels just don’t perform well. After the first slide, click rate drops significantly (ranging from 3% to 15%).

Solution: The most successful websites should be able to sum up their primary goal/message succinctly enough that they don’t need to depend on 3 or 4 separate slides.


Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 9.10.48 AMDesigning for various devices, screen sizes, and interaction methods (like touchscreens) has caused all sorts of changes to the design process. One design element which has proved challenging is the pagination pattern. Where before we would click the tiny link to a specified page to advance, the small hotspot for these numbers makes it challenging on touchscreens.

Solution: The newer approach of infinite scrolling is much more mobile friendly and is a more enjoyable experience on most conventional devices as well.

Event Calendars

calgoodThe note-filled cat calendar on the wall at your mom’s place is charming for sure, but there has to be a better way of organizing events on the web. The problem with digital event calendars is that they really have issues with limited screen real estate – see smartphones. You select a day to see an event and you’re either jumped down the page, or brought to a new one to see event details. Then it’s up to users to go back to the previous view to check another day. It’s a lot of work that is both cumbersome and unnecessary.

Solution: A simple list view with sorting and filtering can be a much more satisfying experience. Ensure that you provide intuitive filters and you are good to go.

Always Moving Forward

It’s important that we constantly evolve and adapt to meet users needs and tastes. Something revolutionary today could become irrelevant tomorrow, I’m looking at you modal windows and tab bars, don’t get too comfortable. At the root of any type of design is thinking about what makes user’s lives easier, I mean user is literally in the job title. Try not to get too attached to any one type of pattern and always be on the lookout for the up and coming new design practices.

Don’t always take the easy way out, it will come back to bite you.

Can you think of any other patterns that annoy you or are starting to show their age? Or maybe you just want to reminisce about the good old days of AOL, Encarta and Captain Keen. Please share in the comments.

Further Reading
The CULT of Customer Experience
FIX: A new prescription to cure disengaged customers, prospects or staff
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