Since iOS 8 and Android KitKat were released, a new mobile design paradigm has quickly emerged. Paul Adams, the VP of Product over at Inside Intercom, provided a detailed explanation of the development trend of using “Cards” here, but here’s a quick summary of what cards are doing for mobile experience:
[Mobile] Notifications used to be “signposts” that would point a user to another place. For example, a mobile notification that would tell a user to open up an app, like a calendar or Pinterest. However, this is changing fast.
Today, instead of opening an app to do something, a user can take action directly within Android notifications. Sometimes, a notification may send a user to an application to execute an action. At other times, a user may be able to execute an action directly through the notification itself, without opening an app at all.
Says Adams, “We’ve moved pretty quickly from notifications as signposts, containers (cards) that include content and actions on that content.”
Cards represent an evolution of the stream of “short content notifications layer” that defined early social media and RSS technology, and now they are popping up more widely in social networks and SaaS adoption. As development continues, Adams says product experiences developed using cards are growing fuller and more detailed.
In a recent TechCrunch article, Nora Spivak, co-founder and CEO of Bottlenose, characterized cards as being far more important than previously thought: “Cards are modular, bite-sized content containers designed for easy consumption and interaction on small screens, but they are also a new metaphor for user-interaction that is spreading across all manner of other apps and content.”
As long as there are no cohesive standards for cards, they will remain app-bound and proprietary, as they are now. Spivak points out that, “This non-interoperability is a pain point that will create the need and opportunity for an open standard for cards to emerge.” Twitter, with Fabric, and Google Android are the frontrunners in card format innovation, but Facebook’s Open Graph Stories, Apple, and Microsoft aren’t far behind.
As the competition over winning card format acceptance heats up, it’s going to become increasingly important to have common design language for cards just as it was eventually required for email, calendars, documents, audio files, etc. It is not sustainable to support multiple formats, and as we’ve seen before, once it gets painful enough, a standard becomes necessary.
The need for an open standard for cards is prevalent, and as Spivak points out, require similar qualities to those embodied within the OpenStand Principles.
Interoperability: “Cards will be the glue — a kind of data middleware — that will connect and integrate many different kinds of previously incompatible and disconnected apps.”
Content Distribution and Marketing: “Brand marketers will be able to use social media dashboards like Hootsuite to compose cards that work consistently across multiple outlets (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other apps). Marketers might even be able to distribute cards directly to consumers who opt in to receive them via their intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs).”
Search, personalization, and Recommendations: “Semantic metadata attached to cards, perhaps from Schema.org and Open Graph, or maybe even using the standards of the W3C Semantic Web, will enable apps to be really smart about understanding, filtering, targeting, displaying, sorting and suggesting cards to users.”
The complications resulting from any one company trying to control a new medium that is being widely used in a competitive field has been shown time and again. Spivak points out that whatever company advocates first for open standards for cards might actually gain an edge. In addition, they may gain goodwill in the industry.