Clearing the Clutter

I hate newspapers. Not news, just newspapers. I hate them because CLUTTER. Seriously, I feel like we should all pause and applaud the newspaper industry, because the amount of words, data, and images they cram onto any given page is remarkable. And there are so many pages. My grandfather sits and reads two full newspapers every single morning (while he clears his throat approximately 97 times and drinks two and one-half cups of coffee). He is currently 91, and I estimate that he has spent approximately 15 years of his life sifting through useless information as he reads his papers.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I’m a busy working mom of three, and I have to say that I’m beyond thrilled the online world is catching on to the idea of the card. Why? Because my time is in short supply, and having succinct, headline-based information at my fingertips is a HUGE timesaver!

WHAT IS A CARD?

Think Pinterest, because they pioneered the concept. Cards are typically simplified, singular thoughts that have container-style formats. Each card has different text, images, links, etc., and each leads the user to take one primary action, usually by clicking within the card to find more in-depth information.

For example:

Google Now

Google Now

 

Google Now is basically an intelligent personal assistant that gathers current data for the user at any given time. The app displays relevant information in the form of cards. Depending on the user’s interests and online patterns, Google Now displays information on everything from fitness tracking, weather, and friends’ birthdays to boarding passes, movie times, and breaking news stories. You see the cards in one place and get a quick overview on everything that’s happening in your world. Then, if you want more newspaper-worthy reads and in-depth information, you can click on the card of your choosing and be taken to a full-length article. For people like me who get nauseous when confronted with too much information clutter, Google Now is a great way to gather pertinent information quickly and concisely.

My grandfather would hate Google Now, because he’d only be able to clear his throat twice while giving it a once over. Also, he’d have to guzzle his coffee.

CARDS AREN’T JUST THE NEW FACE OF APPS

More and more websites are moving to this simplified approach to sharing information as well. The Guardian’s website now sports a cards format:

 

The Guardian's homepage

The Guardian’s homepage

The newspaper explains last year’s information-presentation overhaul this way:

When we first started designing our responsive site we challenged ourselves to think of new ways to improve the discovery and promotion of our content, not just on the homepage, but on all our section pages. We quickly realised that the container model gave us the beginnings of a really flexible reusable design system, something we believed would help facilitate the engaging content discovery experience we were striving for.

I think they’re right: cards simplify the visual presentation of information, which helps in creating an engaging content discovery experience for the users (that’s us). I’m know I can’t speak for you, but it’s such a timesaver to go to my favorite news sources’ websites and to be able to find out in a matter of seconds what’s happening in my country and around the world.

When it comes to card-based design, several factors must be considered. Our design team at Nine Labs often asks several questions as we evaluate where a project is headed.

  1. Is the card layout well organized and neatly packaged, and will it be easily understood by the user?
  2. Is the cards’ content eye-catching, and does each card clearly define the information it represents?
  3. Does the design look great, and is it in any way distracting?

All of these questions must be considered as card-based design grows more and more in popularity, because (like it or not, Granddaddy) cards are here to stay. They’re easy to organize, they look great, and they make information accessible and understandable. They also help break habits (clears throat), or so I’m told…

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