Home > UX and Prototyping > UX’s Halloween history: 5 UI elements we don’t want to haunt us

Trick or treat! This year we take a look at UX design’s spooky history and discover 5 UI elements we don’t want to haunt us again…

Boo! Ah, Halloween. That time of the year to binge watch the latest season of Stranger Things on Netflix and dress up as your favorite sexy animal. That’s right, the cobwebs are in full swing and the ghouls are out in full spook mode. This year we at Justinmind got the fright of our lives when we looked at UX design’s Halloween history. It wasn’t pretty but we braved it.

Grab your pumpkin spiced latte because we’re going to look at 5 UI UI elements from UX past that we don’t want to haunt us. Happy Halloween!

Clippy

Do you remember Clippy? Clippy was Microsoft Office’s intelligent (by whose standards?) UI assistant. The little metal paper clip would pop up while you were mid-deadline to patronizingly tell you what you were doing. “It looks like you’re writing a letter. Would you like help?”. No Clippy, I’m four coffees into this deadline, I don’t need help – I need miracles.

This innocent-at-first-glance UI element was a repeat offender for asking the obvious and being a hindrance more than a help. Even early focus groups hated this smug guy with his perpetually raised eyebrows. We’re glad that Microsoft turned off this UX feature in 2007 and banished him to the wilderness, where he’s most likely sobbing and collecting rust.

With advancements in intelligent personal assistants and natural language user interface, we have the joys of Siri and Alexa to help us with our lives. Thankfully they’re not as intrusive.

If there’s one thing Clippy is good for, however, it’s a brilliantly ironic Halloween costume.

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WordArt

Now this article isn’t an attack on all things Microsoft although they’ve created some questionable UI design elements in their time. This next one is a product of a bygone era, a time when the internet and UX design was young. The naive 90s. But sometimes things we once adored have a habit of coming back to haunt us.

We’re talking about WordArt. Millennials will remember WordArt fondly. How many an evening was spent transforming your essays, book covers and assignments into bold, expressive and colorful delights. Unfortunately, UX design is not like fine wine, WordArt was of its time and hasn’t aged well.

The power of typography should not go unmentioned. Prototyping fonts are powerful way to boost brand identity and UX design but WordArt would not add anything to the user experience in this day and age and we’re glad it’s gone.


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Skeuomorphic design

Skeuomorphic design is another UI element that was good at the time then quickly became pastiche. Skeuomorphic design is when design tries to imitate reality. Dragging unwanted files into a trash can is an example of skeuomorphic design.

If you remember when the iPhone was originally released, it was festooned with skeuomorphic design at the behest of Steve Jobs. It was a great device to help users understand and learn about the UX design in a user-friendly way, especially with new technology.

But then users learned what to do on their mobile devices and computers and suddenly the designs were too detailed, a distraction even. Forbes declared Skeuomorphic design dead in 2007 and this lead to the rise of flat design, which put visual clarity at the forefront and is what dominates today.

Flash

Adobe announced the death of Flash this year, to be phased out by 2020. Famously insecure and open to exploitation, Flash is a platform that helped to produce animations, games, applications and videos in your browser. Talk about ghoulish.

Steve Jobs tore a stripe off Flash a new one when he penned an open letter, ranting about Adobe’s poor security being the number one cause of crashing Macs.

The closed nature of Flash has meant UX designers have turned towards more open standards such as HTML5 and WebAssembly. These solutions have more capabilities and functionalities and that means saying goodbye to Flash isn’t so difficult. Rest in peace.

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Carousels

One UI pattern that’s unlikely to rise from the grave any time soon is the carousel. The rotating homepage carousel was a fixture on more than half of US e-commerce sites until as late as 2015. These image slides appear at the top of a page, as the hero image mainly. The trick behind why carousels were good news is that you get more content for your buck because the carousel will rotate the content accordingly.

The unfortunate truth is that the stats tell a different story. A meager 1% of visitors click on a carousel and most users don’t even stick around long enough to view the second image. A wasted opportunity but thankfully there are some useful alternatives to the rotating carousel so reviving this UI design isn’t needed.

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Steven is the web editor at Justinmind

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