With all the turmoil in the design of operating systems and applications lately, you’d think there would be more actual improvement.
But there’s not, and there can’t be, and I’ll tell you why.
First, though, let’s take a short look at the history of books.
When books first started being printed en masse in the late 1400s and 1500s, they were produced in an extremely wide variety of formats and sizes, with widely-varying designs, with many attempting to imitate high-quality manuscript books.
It wasn’t until the 1600s or so that books really standardized as a format. A book from 1650 wouldn’t be that distinguishable from one today, other than the archaic language and font. The format – margin, one line per page, no columns, etc. – would not be any different.
With operating systems and applications something similar occurred, just in a shorter time frame. The first interfaces were clumsy due to both resource limitations and because the fields of UI and UX were new. Everyone then was in uncharted waters.
After about 20 years of use by the general public, a few very-similar standardized interfaces developed that best melded productivity and approachability.
Note that these might not have been the absolute best approaches – though how one can measure that is questionable – but they worked well enough for the majority of people. Furthermore, once enough people become accustomed to a use paradigm changing it reduces productivity greatly, and often for a very long time, for only extremely minor benefit.
My point is then that GUI design standardized at a near-optimum with current human and technology limitations around a decade ago, and that designers now attempting to introduce useless “innovations” like Metro and Australis even if their designs are better by some amount serve to actually reduce net productivity.
If something like 3-D interfaces or neural interfaces ever occur, then it would certainly make sense to re-examine and overturn many if not all widely-accepted UI design conventions.
However now all designers really can do is make things worse since interfaces (at least prior to the latest design manias) are already fairly near optimal. Ergo, even slightly net positive changes are harmful as it takes most people many years to completely acclimatize to such major changes with minor benefits.