What's new in the second edition

A chapter about social media

Chapter 9, “Using Social Media,” lays out some tactics and patterns for integrating social media into a site or application. The chapter does not cover all aspects of social interfaces; it’s meant to be complementary to existing works on the subject, especially Designing Social Interfaces.

A chapter about mobile design

Chapter 10, “Going Mobile,” contains some patterns that are specific to mobile devices. In particular, the patterns are aimed at the platforms most designers are likely to target: touch-screen devices with full connectivity, such as iPhones. Both apps and websites are covered. Again, this is not intended to cover all aspects of mobile design—simply the patterns and ideas that can help you create a graceful mobile interface even if you’re not a mobile UI specialist.

The existence of this chapter brings up an interesting point. A “good” pattern should be invariant across different platforms, perhaps including mobile ones. However, mobile design introduces so many new constraints on screen size, interactive gestures, social expectations, and latency that some patterns simply don’t work well for it. Conversely, most of the patterns written specifically for mobile contexts don’t work well (or aren’t particularly salient design solutions) for larger screens; those patterns have a home in Chapter 10.

Reorganized chapters and rewritten introductions

Because there were so many old and new patterns about how to present lists of items, I chose to “refactor” three chapters to account for that. Chapter 5 is now simply about lists. It pulled patterns from the first edition’s Chapter 2 (Two-Panel Selector, One-Window Drilldown) and Chapter 7 (Row Striping and Cascading Lists). I also added several new ones, such as List Inlay and Alphabetic Scroller.

Furthermore, the introductions to the chapters on information architecture (Chapter 2), navigation (Chapter 3), and page layout (Chapter 4) have been rewritten to reflect recent design thinking and a new emphasis on web-based or web-like designs.

New patterns that capture popular new interactions

Some techniques have really caught on in the last five years, and the ones that seem to be “pattern-like”—they are abstractable and cross-genre, they’re common enough to be easy to find, and they can noticeably improve the user experience—are represented here. Examples include Fat Menus, Sitemap Footer, Hover Tools, Password Strength Meter, Data Spotlight, and Radial Table.

New patterns that aren’t really “new,” but that were not included in the first edition

These ideas have been kicking around for a while, but either I didn’t recognize them as being important back in 2005, or they weren’t especially salient back then. They are now. This list of patterns includes Dashboard, News Stream, Carousel, Grid of Equals, Microbreaks, Picture Manager, and Feature, Search, and Browse.

Renamed patterns, and patterns whose scope has changed

For instance, Card Stack was renamed to Module Tabs, and Closable Panels to Collapsible Panels; I made these changes to conform to current terminology and other pattern libraries. Similarly, Accordion was factored out from Collapsible Panels and made into its own pattern, since other designers, design writers, and pattern collections have converged on the term “accordion” for this particular technique. Meanwhile, One-Window Drilldown and Two-Panel Selector—both from the original book’s chapter on information architecture—have been narrowed down to deal specifically with lists of items.

New examples, new research, and new connections to other pattern libraries

Almost every pattern has at least one new pictorial example, and many of them have an “In other libraries” section that directs the reader to the same pattern (or patterns that closely resemble it) in other collections. These might provide you with new insights or examples. Also, some patterns in this book have been slightly rewritten to account for new thinking or research on the issue. Row Striping is one of these; some experiments were run to find out the value of the technique, and the pattern refers you to those results.

Some individual patterns have been removed

Many of these have passed into the realm of “blindingly obvious to everyone,” and while they’re still useful as design tools, their value as part of this book is diminished. This list includes Extras on Demand, Intriguing Branches, Global Navigation, and Illustrated Choices. Others are no longer used much in contemporary designs, such as Color-Coded Sections.

The “Builders and Editors” chapter is gone

Designers still work on these types of applications, of course, but I honestly couldn’t find much to change in that set of patterns in terms of new work and updated examples. I also discovered in a survey that readers found this to be one of the least valuable chapters. Because I wanted to keep the book size down to something reasonable, I chose to remove that chapter to make room for the new material.

Finally, I want to talk briefly about what you won’t find in this new edition. The following areas are so well covered by other published (or forthcoming) pattern collections that I saw little need to put them into this edition:

  • Search
  • General social interfaces
  • Gestural interfaces
  • More depth in mobile design
  • Types of animated transitions
  • Help techniques

I hope that in the next few years, we’ll see new sets of patterns for other areas of design: online games, geographic systems, online communities, and more. I see a rich and rewarding area of inquiry here, and that’s terrific. I encourage other design thinkers to jump in and write other patterns—or challenge us pattern writers to make the existing collections better!

This material is excerpted from the Introduction to the Second Edition.