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Mobile, Social Drive Changes At The Desktop

Mobile computing and social media impact just about all facets of our business and personal lives, but now it’s clear their impact is being felt even more broadly than we may have thought – specifically, in desktop web interfaces.

Some of the core principles of social and mobile – simplicity, liberal use of graphics and photos, ease of engagement  – are increasingly driving desktop web design, which hasn’t always kept pace with these two pervasive technologies.

Dr. Dobbs’ Andrew Binstock points out  the ways design principles used for smartphones and tablets are directly impacting desktop web design and even application software.  “Drop-downs today have a smaller range of options (due to mobile screens being so small and the need to have the entries big enough that a finger touch can select it), and they never use the cascading menu,” Binstock cites as one example.

There’s a lively discussion on the mobile trend taking place – predicated by Binstock’s column and using the analogy of the (mobile) tail wagging the (desktop) dog.

My two cents: mobile is now the dog and desktop is the tail.

Then, there’s this analysis from eMedia Vitals that the power and design principles of Pinterest are being felt in more and more desktop web designs, such as retail and commerce sites, to name a couple major categories.

Another factor driving the trend: Pinterest ‘s design metaphor works equally well in mobile and desktop environments and, as the two increasingly blend, those that leverage the best of Pinterest (“the simplicity of everything else on the site pulls your eye to focus only on its featured imagery” says TechCrunch)  will have some of the best designs.

I see the USAToday design as an advanced manifestation of the social media/photo-heavy trend; that’s not necessarily an endorsement as much as an observation. Here’s a big list of cutting-edge home page designs from HubSpot (registration required) that definitely reinforces the view of what’s hot. Some old-school web designs, by contrast, continue to deliver information overload: extremely busy, link excesses, slow-loading graphics and more. The infusion of mobile and social principles is great news for usability, navigability and greater focus on a limited range of content elements.

Also on the social front, a new Enterprise Social analysis from InformationWeek Reports concludes that companies MUST integrate internal collaboration platforms and even customer portals with the top public social media platforms. A key indicator of whether you’re doing that adequately: do your apps allow users to sign into these enterprise apps with their Google, Faceboook, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts?

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