I commented in a previous blog post how user interfaces experienced a period of becoming fancier and fancier during the 90's and well into the 2000's but then, for some reason, everybody started going into the exact opposite direction. To a ridiculous extreme.
Consider, for example, the window decorations in Windows 7 vs. Windows 10:
The latter removes pretty much all usability features, such as lines that delineate button edges and separate different logical sections. All distinguishing colors have also been removed. Button symbols have been changed into 1-pixel-wide lines.
MacOS X isn't faring much better. Compare the upper left corner of Finder from a much earlier version of the operating system to the newest one:
While colors have not been completely removed (which by this point I wouldn't even be surprised if they did), they have been severely muted. Everything looks flat, and lines delineating different elements have been almost completely faded away.
Operating systems and applications aren't the only ones where this trend is seen. Consider, for example, how the Google logo has changed over the years:
The first one above was in use for the longest, 11 years. Then they started simplifying and simplifying. First they removed the shadows, and dimmed the shading of the letters. Then they removed the shading completely and made the letters completely flat-colored. Then they removed all serifs and varying widths, and made all the letters as evenly-thick, angular and boring as they possibly could. It seems that the principle is that the more boring it looks, the better. (I suppose the next thing to go will be the iconic colors, and they'll just use a plain gray logo. Notice how the color saturation of the letters has gone progressively down with each iteration, especially noticeable with the blue letters. Going to gray would only be the next logical step.)
Well, unsurprisingly, YouTube has been next in their list to make more boring, removing all helpful visual cues, and as unusable as possible. The changes are yet not overtly obnoxious, but I fear it's only the start.
For like a year now Google has been pushing the new design onto people, while still offering the option to keep the old one. However now, suddenly, I'm just getting the new layout, out of the blue, and can't find the option to turn back the old one. Unless I'm missing something, the old layout is gone for good, and we have no choice.
This was the old layout (click the image for the full-sized version):
Notice how the different sections of the page are nicely separated into their own visual boxes, surrounded by a light grey background.
Compare it to the new layout:
Most of the boxes and divisions are gone. The "add a public comment..." box is gone (making it less evident how you can add a comment), the "top comments" drop-down box is gone, the three vertical dots at the right of each comment indicating a drop-down menu are gone (or rather, hidden until you hover the comment). The number of subscribers at the right of the "subscribe" button, which was in its own box in the old layout has been merged to be within the button itself, making it less conspicuous. Overall, the video description info in the new layout is less compact than in the old one, yet harder to distinguish from the rest of the content of the page. Even the "show more" label in the video description, while not removed, is less conspicuous now, making it harder to notice that it's there.
Having used the old layout for many years, the new one is really jarring and annoying. And apparently now we don't even have a choice.