Tuesday March 10th, 2015

Card based design: How mobile is shaping the future of online content

It's no secret; mobile technology is only growing more diverse, powerful and limitless by the day. With the latest mobile devices you’re able to send direct messages, update a spreadsheet, take high definition photos, record video, and share any of it with the world in seconds. Since the integration of full Internet service to mobile in 2004, we have adapted to a constantly updating stream of wireless data that has too many become a staple in our day-to-day lifestyles. And as our devices evolve to access that data, so must our methods of offering it to the users.

It used to be desktop and mobile for websites; two separate forms built for two separate devices. The content found on mobile websites would often be shortened to accommodate the smaller screens with links to the full site for complete detailed information. With websites having evolved into responsive layouts that can adapt to the device viewing it, we’ve been able to make the two into one. But with this we’re once again pushing full site content in a mobile viewing space. This is where card based design comes in.

With mobile screens, even small amounts of content can take on a, “too long; didn’t read” mentality. Cards are a form of user-centered design that gives users the ability to discover individual topics of interest in digestible chunks. These bursts of self-contained information are highly manipulate-able, capable of being stacked, flipped, folded and expanded upon in responsive web layouts to reveal more than the summary initially presented. Even better, cards are meant to be shared since they allow content to be pulled out of their own apps or service allowing them to be attributed to a new silo or category being referenced in that moment

This isn’t a new concept, but in fact old methods of information transfer being adapted for modern means. In younger years it was seen in trading cards, educational flash cards or library card catalogs. Today you see it in marketing materials like coupons or postcard mailers looking to share new offers referencing you to more detailed content. In digital format – as with its former – cards are all about separating content into its component parts. This may leave you asking, “Well, if this is such an old idea, how am I not seeing more of it?” Truth is, you’re seeing it all the time.

Cards were reborn digitally as mobile data became more and more relevant in our lives. You’ve seen it all over websites like Twitter and Pinterest whose core method of data revolve around them, as well in apps like Apple’s iOS which uses Airdrop, a form of card sharing.

So how does it work, and how does it relate to the future of online business?
Cards reference metadata along with the habits of users, their preferences and locations as well as the habits, preferences and locations of their friends or online connections. Additionally, information is pulled from the online advertising ecosystem of the user’s area to better associate cards among themselves in the moment. They are being used today with mobile in mind. With the reduced size and packaged format of cards, what better media is there to display them then on your mobile devices.

In 2014 mobile devices now account for 25% of global web usage with traffic from mobile devices outpacing desktop traffic with 52.1% of all online traffic coming from smartphones and tablets. Additionally it’s been shown that 58% of shoppers prefer to use mobile devices while shopping rather than asking store employees for information – many using mobile retail apps. All stats of which are projected for even higher growth moving into 2015 and show no signs of slowing down.

With all of this mobile traffic on the rise, businesses cannot afford to have their content passed by due to it being poorly represented as long lengthy blocks of multi-page scrolling, slow loading, data eating mobile content. With card based design, businesses are able to share their content quicker, with higher levels of interaction and better opportunity of sharing. And in the end, isn’t people championing your business the goal?

Who could have guessed back in 1983 that this would be the progression we’d take from the DynaTAC 8000X mobile phone making it’s first commercial wireless call. If you have any thoughts or questions, we encourage you to leave them in the comments below.

Mobile Technology Fact Sheet
The Evolution of Cell Phone Design Between 1983-2009
From an $8,150 laptop to disposable smart-phone satellites: A mobile timeline
Why Cards Are The Future Of The Web
A Serious Look At Card Based Design
The Internet is for snacking
53% of Emails Opened on Mobile; Outlook Opens Decrease 33%
Mobile Stats 2014
IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark Hub Holiday Benchmark Data Alert

J.D. Cutter,

Senior Front-End Web Developer

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