Obviously, there are some design trends related to this, for example the upcoming release of iOS7. But we were thinking more about cognitive load than we were about cosmetics or trendiness. That’s because we were taught a severe lesson in the early days of Lift.
Our early prototypes, which very few people saw or used, combined activity tracking with a game. What that meant for a user was that in order to use Lift they had to carry three mental models in their head: their own goals, the tracking features of Lift, and the rules of the game that were grafted on top of the tracking features.
That’s too much cognitive load and we had a moment internally which we called “beyond gamification.” That may sound like a moment where we added even more complexity, but it actually was the moment where we realized the value of simplicity. We did our best to remove an entire mental model from our design.
As modern design gets simpler, I think more about the benefits to cognitive load. Designs, including ours often reference real physical elements with the idea that the realism will make the design more accessible. But often they have the reverse effect, bringing in an additional, unnecessary mental model.
Like most innovation, the first approach is often replaced by an even better approach. For us, we see opportunity everywhere to clarify the elements of the app that are most important by bringing some features forward and then simplifying the surrounding features.