Silence the Age of Noise with Card-Based Design

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Silence the Age of Noise with Card-based Design

July 15, 2015

Ever wonder why your phone number or credit card is divided into three to four number sections?  This technique is called chunking.  Most of us are able to store only about four to seven different items in our short-term memory. By grouping several items into one larger whole, you’ll be able to remember much more.

This applies far beyond memorizing your grocery list or phone numbers. Let’s cross into our interactive world for a second and look at card-based design. Surely, you’ve noticed those square, card-like bits of information typically with a call-to-action of some sort, small blurb, and typically accompanied with a graphic.  They are not only easy to digest, but also engaging. What card-based design is doing is taking a principle that has been applied for years in other aspects of our life and applying it to how we digest information in our interactive world.

I can honestly say the world we are in is a bit noisy. The Age of Noise – sounds official right?  It’s not; I totally made it up; but, I certainly experience it everyday.  I pump my gas, and there are now ads at each pump.  They are on the side of every building and on the trains, buses, and mobile devices.  They are on the sides of every page on the internet advertising whatever I last searched (now my boyfriend knows I’ve been staring at rings all day, great), and it is even a bar at the top of my email.  I feel invaded sometimes with the amount of information I have shoved in my face. Not only that, but everyone also has a blog or opinion these days.  It can be fantastic to have so much at our fingertips, but how to find it all amongst the noise is often challenging.

The best example of how I was able to shuffle through the noise was in college when I was invited to an exclusive site called Pinterest.  It was pretty Elite . . . I say this in jest, but not really; you had to get an invite, and there most definitely was a waiting list.  I remember being enamored, as a designer, especially at all the inspiration gathered from the best and well desired blogs and sites in ONE place that I could sift through quickly and efficiently.  Think about how often you hear, “ I found it on Pinterest.”

Pinterest may be one of the first modern examples of the card-based design, but isn’t the only place it’s been used.  Card-based design has been around for years – all the techniques from our real world like: sorting, shuffling, stacking, grouping, color-coding – is now applied to the digital world.  It is quite brilliant and especially useful for responsive design.

I won’t be the first talking about how card-based design is a big trend that is being adapted by top companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google.  I won’t be the first to tell you how long it has been around, which is why I am only grazing the surface on this part.  I do, however, want to explain how this now becomes an extension of our memory and a sifter through the noise – AKA the X-factor.

By chunking the information into a couple key components, it has done what an entire article can do in a small dose that is completely digestible and “takeable”. I have now taken a piece of your company or idea with me – a seedling if you will. Maybe I go to action right there because I was able to filter through the noise with this small bite, or maybe I have it planted for later.  When a conversation comes up, I can actually recall that bite. The ability of a company to gain control in a noisy environment and give the reader just enough information to chunk and engage is real power.

Don’t go running off building a Card Empire just yet. With great power, comes a price.  As fantasy novel as that sounds, it’s true.  My fear for this trend is trend –it comes quickly into the limelight and vanishes just as quickly.  And, why does this usually happen?  The trend is new and exciting, but then everyone starts doing it, and it becomes so overused that the brain figures out that the trend isn’t so special and is actually quite overwhelming. Then, POOF, we need a new way to ninja the brain.  We become overloaded and unable to focus again, and a new way to attack our way of processing information will be brought forth.

On the other hand, I’ve been using Pinterest for about 6 years, am still fascinated, and could sift through days upon days of little cards and never get bored or overloaded.  This may be a trend; I will have to see how it plays out.  As for now, should you worry about adapting it?  I think that’s a case-by-case decision you get with the experts (like me, just saying) who can help decide if that is the best choice.  What is for certain is that eliminating the overwhelm and chunking information is something that’s been around for decades upon decades.  How we eliminate that overwhelm and chunk the information accordingly may be a constant evolution.

The ability of a company to gain control in a noisy environment and give the reader just enough information to chunk and engage is real power.
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