Someone recently posted a question to Quora asking “What are the best UI elements (controls, patterns, etc.) that have cropped up in modern web sites and web apps recently?” The questioner gives infinite scroll as an example, then leaves it open for others to add their favorite recent UI features to the list. Fifteen people have responded so far, here’s a few of their answers:
Stephen P. Anderson
“Sticky” headers/sidebar content – critical elements stay fixed as you scroll down the page (the way the gMail header stays fixed as you scroll through an email, lots of “share” functionality on blogs/magazines stays with you as you scroll down the page).
More “discoverable” controls (for better “cleaner interface” or worse “how do I do x…!?”); the Metro UI from Microsoft is able to produce cleaner screens because secondary elements are “hidden” in corners and edges (see: http://msdn.microsoft.com
Bigger type sizes, hit areas, buttons and white space – so that Web apps might also be touch friendly w/o a lot of refactoring
Higher resolution graphics/images – to support the eventual onslaught of retina screens.
Merging of mobile and desktop systems – As both OSX and Windows race to have the one OS that will rule the next 10 years – melding the experiences we have on our laptops, tablets, and phones.
Maps as Backgrounds – Using large, usually live maps to enhance location information (ex. findery.com)
In-field labels (e.g., HTML5 placeholder): Instead of a label next to a textarea, there’s grey text that fades out when you focus the field and disappears when you start typing.
Exploding UI elements: At boldprogressives.org, if you focus the text input labeled “email address”, other optional fields appear around it. The Facebook comment field (mentioned elsewhere) is another example.
Offline piece: GMail is caching a bunch of recent conversations client-side — they open faster when I’m connected and they even open when I’m disconnected. Mobile Twitter only needs to fetch new tweets since I last opened it. It’s tricky to do, but totally saves latency when it’s possible.
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That’s just a handful of the things people like in today’s web UI. Take a look at the full list to see some other dos and don’ts that will make visitors love your site.