Does everything have to be round ?

Week-end time ! And hence a perfect time to code and write stupid blog posts.

Today, it suddenly occurred to me that almost every single modern computer UI I see nowadays tries to put round corners everywhere. If you want examples, examine the UI of the computer you’re currently using, or see WordPress’ control panel…

…Windows 7… (courtesy of http://toastytech.com/ )

…and Mac OS X…

What’s with this rounded corner madness ?

  • Maybe it’s because square buttons are as old as Windows 95 and hence it was time to introduce some change ?

    Somehow, I have some doubts
  • Maybe it’s because there’s no way to make them look “modern”, then ?

    Well, I let you decide... (hand-made mockup)
  • Maybe it’s because round corners are technologically superior then ? But no ! Drawing them costs processing power (because checking if a point is in a square requires 4 comparisons whereas rounded corners require handling of translucency or much more complex checks) and valuable screen space (the button psychologically feels smaller, so you have to make it bigger in order to get the same perceived size and hence ease of use).

Well, in the end, I just don’t get the round UI frenzy at all. Can someone help me understand ?

6 thoughts on “Does everything have to be round ?

  1. Kingsley June 12, 2010 / 11:15 am

    I don’t have a definite answer, but you reminded me of something I read awhile back, regarding the naming of the xbox360.

    http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/612/612999p2.html – “The New Name” section.

    I guess circles make people… happy?

    Nevertheless, keep up the awesome work! :D

  2. Hadrien June 12, 2010 / 11:41 am

    But… but… If I have a look in my room and outside there’s more rectangles than rounded rects !
    My whiteboard is made of normal rectangles, same for the lot of paper sheets, books, and CD enclosures. My windows are rectangular and the buildings outside are so too, like my desk and its drawers…

    So in fact this rounded rect overflow could not have happened if Jobs lived in a place like mine, because he would have said that people were more used to usual rectangles ?

  3. Hadrien June 12, 2010 / 11:46 am

    Must have something to do with the primitive reaction of a mammal facing the sun ;)

  4. Hadrien June 12, 2010 / 12:12 pm

    On second though, no : there has always been rounded rect shapes, due to the need for products which do not hurt their users because of their too sharp shape.

  5. Amenel June 19, 2010 / 8:33 pm

    Clever algorithm indeed but I haven’t understod yet how the sum of odd numbers being equal to a perfect square helps in drawing a circle.

    I prefer real rectangles. The worst in my computing life is the tabs in Opera (and Firefox too).

    I made the same reflection to myself about flat buttons and 3D buttons. Originally in Win 3.1, they were bulky and rounded. Then, around the Win98 era, flat rectangles that barely reacted when depressed became trendy. But XP, with its child toy-ish look brought rounded to the front seat.

    That’s why I use the Windows classic look, even on Vista: real rectangles with square corners, not “roundrects”.

    Why are things round? Probably because they appear as “softer”? Less aggressive? More inoffensive?

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