Let's talk digital evolution for a second.
When I was growing up, we had MySpace (Gen. Z kids don't laugh at me for being old school, I AM a millennial after all). Yep, that's right. I said it: MYSPACE. If you don't know MySpace, consider yourself lucky.
You also probably didn't have to connect your dial-up to your computer, and you never had to experience the frustration of trying to text on one of these in class without getting caught (oh, the days).
Believe it or not, this is an example of what a social media profile used to look like:
You might notice a few things here (besides the pure chaos and poor readability of this design):
When Facebook began (or formerly known as 'The Facebook' -- not kidding), they followed this same basic layout of MySpace, but they stripped all user customization and removed the music player. This became a sleeker social media platform for college students, and the primary focus on the platform was based on function.
The photo below (circa 2008) shows a very similar layout to MySpace. The main functions, like viewing friends, editing your profile, etc. are all still stacked below the profile picture. You'll also notice the "Wall", "About" and "Photos" are tucked into tabs on the right instead of blocks stacked on top of each other. This is the basic structure of most of the social media profiles we see today.
Now that we know a little about HOW we got here... WHY did this white interface design become so popular? Because the non-customizable interface was EASY TO USE. That's it. Great readability and a simple design.
It's common for companies to put a lot of emphasis on the beautification of their products, especially with the pressure of a sales teams who need to sell the product. While I believe interfaces should be beautiful and sleek, we also know that designs that are not oriented with a function-first approach do not stand test of time.
Reddit's front page, for example, was the single most viewed news source through the 2010s, and it had the same concept -- a white interface that was easy to use.
However, just like any design trend, everything comes full circle. We're now seeing the white interface start to fade out as users want more customization back on their social media profiles.
For example, Instagram has a gridded default layout, and users can customize their grids to act as a background for their profile.
We're also seeing more customization in typography, emojis, GIPHYs and filters through Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories.
In all, social media platform interface designs are constantly evolving and the big companies are listening to their users and adapting.
Will platforms probably keeping moving toward a more customizable direction?
If you ask me, 1,000% yes.
Will platforms start having music players back on their profile pages?
I really hope so. I miss my emo music player!
Where will social media move next?
I believe the next move is toward a darker interface (think nightmode on your phone or computer). Younger generations are more focused on the environment, and nightmode saves a lot of energy that your electronics expend -- not to mention a cheaper electric bill.
A darker interface is also easier on the eyes. We have a lot of issues with too much exposure to blue light and having your phone out right before you fall asleep. With that in mind companies may start to move towards warmer, darker colors to help people sleep at night and encourage healthier eyesight, phasing out some of the branded blues and whites.
Interested in chatting more with us about UI/UX design? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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