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Why Cards Matter

Google Maps Card Design

I’ve been struggling to really understand the significance of “cards” as a new unit of interaction. Fred Wilson and Benedict Evans have both discussed the significance of cards, but I feel like neither has been able to provide a concrete example that really highlights why a card isn’t simply just another design trend.

Extrapolating a bit, here are my thoughts on where this could go.

Several years ago Facebook released Open Graph Protocol. The idea was in part that any noun (person, place or thing) on Facebook could have its own Facebook Page, and thus, all the corresponding meta data that accompanied that Page. To me, the notion of cards takes this one step further.

Imagine a time, a few years from now, where you text a friend on WhatsApp to ask if they’ve yet seen James Bond Movie #34. WhatsApp would recognize that James Bond 24 is a noun — specifically a noun, specifically, a movie, and thus the text would automagically appear as a hyperlink. When clicked on, you would see the movie’s card — allowing you to interact with the movie in any number of ways: purchase tickets, watch a trailer, send to a friend, etc — all without needing to go to another app. In some ways it would mimic the options one currently has by clicking on a place in Google Maps (see image above). Cards basically replace websites or native apps. Apps within apps. Google has likewise purchase streaming technology that should allow for mobile apps to start being streamed so that you could interact with the app without ever needing to install it. Again, I see this as potentially being enabled via card.

If the card thus becomes the standard way that I actionably interact with any noun on my mobile device, that becomes a huge deal. It’s much bigger than simply a design fad. The message becomes the medium and functions more like an OS for interacting on mobile. So yeah, cards could be a big deal.

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