Google Cards: UX Design or Information Design?

It’s been a half year since Google released Material Design. I still see it as a great strategy to bring a vocabulary to designers and users for understanding how UIs work. From that design framework, cards have caught my attention from the first time. I always wonder, are cards about UX or are they really about information design?

Google Now
Google Now’s available cards

Probably, the first card I saw corresponds to the weather card in a web browser, the one that appears when you google about the weather. However, the first time I paid attention to a card was in a plane. I remember seeing a clean and well organized information about my flight in a little box in my phone. Google knew about my flight and it delivered enough information for me to be aware about my flight status. I got very excited, honestly. The first thing that came to my mind was: this is information design!

If we think of physical cards, Google’s cards seem to be limited in terms of interaction. In many Google interfaces, cards don’t flip or move. Static information is mostly presented on one face of the card. However, no fancy interactions are necessary to make a card effective. The effectiveness of card relies on the quality of the information that it presents. In that regard, knowing how to design the content, the information becomes important. Visual design principles like hierarchy, contrast and rhythm are necessary for the synthesis of information. Therefore, theUX becomes into a matter of information design. We designers need to remember that the how and why of composition expressed through several skills and theories related to design—including rhetoric—matter for the design of technology. 

Cheers!

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  • I like your observations. I wouldn’t separate information design from UX design, though. UX also includes the experience of consuming information.

    I saw an article once comparing UI “cards” to “pages” in the early days of the WWW. It isn’t really a one-to-one direct translation, since you can’t “turn” webpages or dog-ear the corners or feel or smell them like you could in a book or magazine. And a webpage can go on forever, whereas there are more limits to how much paper you can feasibly have in a page. Likewise, cards are small and (more) easily-consumable pieces of information, and you can often sort them or “give” them to others, but you usually can’t shuffle them or throw them all in the air or build huge card towers out of them.

    I’m not saying there’s no place where being able to flip or shuffle cards in a UI could be interesting or a good part of the design, but I wonder if it would take away from the experience of cards-as-information. I’m sure it could be done well in the right situation, just as there are some really creative business cards out there.

    That might be cool in something like Pinterest actually, because it’s more playful. You can already send a card to someone on a paper airplane… of course they call them “pins” not cards.

    • tzek

      I liked when you say “cards are small and (more) easily-consumable pieces of information, and you can often sort them or “give” them to others, but you usually can’t shuffle them or throw them all in the air or build huge card towers out of them.” The idea of having limited space of information to consume seems to be the key of success from Cards.