Only a decade ago, user interfaces tended to be simpler and minimal in nature. They were imposed by a lot of restrictions and challenges that could not be addressed at that time. As the time passed, these restrictions have been lessened. Now, some of the key restrictions (including bandwidth and internet speed) have become soft.
Let’s have a look at how web design and GUI design stand against each other.
Standard GUI Elements
Talking about a desktop application, we immediately think of menus, toolbars and other standard user interface elements. Almost all desktop applications have these elements in them. But things change a bit when we look at web applications & websites. In case of web design, there is more freedom given to designers and therefore, web design tends to be more diverse and non-standardized in nature.
Web design should be attractive! After all, a user can find tons of other alternates to the same functionality. So it becomes even more important to keep the user ‘glued’ to the web site by providing an attractive design. In case of desktop application however, even the design is not so good; people stick to it and try to call support for help in getting things done.
A desktop application is permitted to utilize more resources, thus they can have more heavy design elements in contrast to a website or a web application. Although high speed internet is now becoming more and more common yet a lot of web users are unable to avail this facility. Therefore, web designers have to be more careful about resource utilizations provided they want to make their web site accessible to most users.
Web users have less time to waste. That means web designs should be simpler and intuitive in nature. A user should know what he is doing and from where he came to access a particular page. Or he might user the competitor’s website. This is something (as usual) different in desktop GUI environment where users have the facility to get trained by the vendor or there are lots of other options available.
Desktop GUI design greatly depends upon the underlying operating system and they try to go in line with the look and feel of underlying operating system. Same is not true in case of web design. Web site & applications are encouraged to have more diversity in their style and look and feel.
Resolution Independent Design
Web designers have to pay a great deal of effort while handling a resolution independent design. Things are even worse when you need to support multiple web browsers (which in most of the cases is required). Desktop design is relatively easy to make resolution independent by making use of different helping routines provided by the underlying operating system.
Current Trends in Web & GUI Design
AJAX, a combination of different technologies, helps in making a web design more interactive than it was ever before. Different Rich Internet Application (RIA) frameworks provide lots of pre-built web user interface elements with the help of which attractive user interface design can be made in no time. These frameworks not only provide rich elements, but also blur the line between web design and desktop UI design.
Microsoft has come up with a brilliant idea by introducing Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). With the help of WPF, same application design can be used in both web as well as desktop environments. Therefore diminishing the effort as well as cost required for separate designers.
Rumors are well spread that soon there will be ‘Web Operating Systems’ and users will need only an internet connection with a dumb machine. Their data as well as applications will be accessible via internet. This will not only wipe out the line between Desktop and Web Design but it will also open new challenges for designers.