One thing you’ll notice about digital design is that it seems to be more attractive and understandable when it follows along the principles of a physical object. Apple, being the pioneer of the “touch revolution”, created a suite of apps and products which took the feel of real-life objects and made them digital. What this did was provide the user with a sense of familiarity with what they were holding in their hands and gave them an idea of how the application functioned.
Now we’re a few years away from the “touch revolution” and there are people asking if it’s time to move away from having physical objects as references for our UI Design. I’d like to make a case for keeping references to physical objects in design by presenting you with a design object which we’ve long used but not given enough credit to:
Enter the Scroll Bar
On the outset the scroll bar appears to be an interestingly abstract UI element which, without years of use might be a little confusing as to its purpose. Thankfully someone was smart enough to name it a “scroll” bar, I assume based on ancient scrolls and how they were read. What I think is really key is that the scroll bar has helped define “pages” but it has slowly changed over the course of its life:
What you’ll notice is that slowly over time the scroll bar has reduced the amount of UI elements to the point where it’s simply a single elipses on the side of a page. My point here is that it started off being quite verbose and as close to a scroll as you could get. As the element has progressed it’s got to the stage where in some implementations such as android, the scroll bar has been completely omitted, the scroll bar has served it’s purpose. It’s quite plain to see that “new” UI elements need to be founded, at least initially in physical basis.
So what’s the take off from this? Amazing and revolutionary design, that can change our perceptions and how we interact with digital media, needs to be founded at least somewhat in currently physical objects. I guess you could say that good UX/UI design is relative to the world we live in.