Lennart Ziburski designs interfaces.

On the Desktop

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.

Written in November 2015.
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