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The future of development could lie in the cards

  
  
  

By Ron Miller
Ness Blogger 

The deck is stacked. The future of development could be in cards. No, really, cards. That's because we're increasingly seeing developers using a card development metaphor to display content on web sites and in apps.

Look at Google Glass for instance and you'll see the design metaphor is a carouselle of moving cards with various types of information. How about Pinterest, which is just a series of cards displayed on a web page. A new social site called Joota also uses them. You create cards and multiple cards make up a deck. (Get it? A deck of cards?)

You can see cards in Evernote too as they display similar saved items in, yes, you guessed it, cards. You can see an example of this approach in the photo of a Pinterest board below.

Pinterest is one of many sites using cards to display content.

Pinterest is one of many sites using cards to display content.

It's all the rage. What exactly is happening here?  Why are we suddenly so enamored with cards?

Those of you old enough to remember might recall that this isn't actually anything new. Apple came up with a nifty programming environment in the 1980s called Hypercard, which used, yup, cards. You could create stacks of cards and then using basic programmatic commands make them do different things. People loved this tool.

According to the site Intercom, which has a stake in the card game because it makes a card-driven development tool, cards are becoming an increasingly popular way to present content on the web because they lend themselves to being swapped in and out to provide a more personalized experience. 

What's more, the cards also resize well for different screen sizes so you can  use them on different devices without a lot of altering of your design. 

As Mike Elgan wrote on Google +, Google is fully embracing the card metaphor in its latest Google + design release. "Let's be clear about why this is happening: Google is fully embracing the cards interface. A card is a unit of information that could contain anything but which is presented in a format for maximum surface scannability -- you should be able to know everything about that chunk of information just by looking at the card," Elgan wrote.

Wired reports that Twitter uses cards to display a snapshot of the shared content. You can see this at play in the new version of TweetDeck which displays previews of pictures and videos now in a much larger format, making it easier to see within a flowing stream of content, and providing a way to call attention to your content on Twitter in a way that wasn't possible before.

Ultimately, it depends on your site and how you want to go about it, but it's a design decision you need to consider as many of the bigger names move toward this metaphor. 

Judging from the comments in Elgan's G+ post, not everyone is enamored with the approach. Some people feel it crowds the text. Others feel it's limiting in other ways, but it's clear that it's becoming the programming rage and as programmers developing for both the web and mobile devices, you need to be aware of the approach and decide if you want to join the card game or leave them on the table.

Photo Credit: Ron Miller

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