Lennart Ziburski designs interfaces. Follow me on twitter, join my newsletter, or send me an email.

The desktop metaphor we use today was developed over 40 years ago. But the way we use our computers has changed dramatically in just the last decade. What worked then as an easy metaphor is now a hindrance for professionals.

Xerox Star in 1981

The desktop is just a stopgap.
Our desktop usually holds all the files we are currently working with. But documents pile up over time, just like on a real desk. We hesitate to put them in their actual folders. Because once we do, we can not access them as quickly anymore.

Files are becoming less important.
We interact with a lot of different content today, and a large part is outside of files. Our messages, photos, repos, databases, websites, friends and mails are not on our desktop. How good can the desktop be if it does not hold our most important data?

The desktop is inefficient.
The desktop becomes a waste of space once we have apps open. It shows fractions of a background image and files that are not related to what we are working on. Even worse, it is hard to get back to the desktop without closing our apps.

The desktop metaphor worked 42 years ago to introduce people to the world of graphical interfaces. Since then, the computing environment has changed. We need to move on and build a new interface for the generation of users that grows up without files and desktop computers.

I am working on a reimagination of the current desktop computer interface. Join my email list to get notified when I publish it:

November 24, 2015 – You should share this on Twitter or Facebook.

The window metaphor for displaying apps and documents has been the dominant desktop interface since its introduction 40 years ago. It is easy to understand and provides a sense of context. But since then, apps have become more varied and complex, screens have become bigger and new input technology has emerged. Window management has not managed to keep up with the needs and possibilities of today.

Apple Lisa in 1983

If you are just using a single app, the window metaphor is inefficient. You are just using a fraction of your screen, since the desktop in the background is just wasting space. You will sometimes be using your apps in different configurations, requiring you to constantly reposition and resize windows to fit. And if you want to quit a window, you can never be quite sure if you are just closing a document or shutting down the whole app.

Once you are working with multiple apps, it gets really messy. Your windows will get buried behind other apps. Since you can only have one window active at once, your other windows will take up space while essentially being useless. To have multiple windows side-by-side, you need to individually reposition and resize them. All of this results in windows just not being a good interface for multitasking. That was fine for most people decades ago, but is unsustainable for productivity today.

With the next generation of users growing up with mobile devices and fullscreen apps, windows become an unintuitive burden. Apple and Microsoft recognize the problem, but fail to solve it by adding more features on top of outdated interfaces. We need to completely rethink window management with a focus on multitasking and efficiency for modern needs and people.

I am working on a reimagination of the current desktop computer interface. Join my email list to get notified when I publish it:

November 23, 2015 – You should share this on Twitter or Facebook.