Technology often develops from primitive to complicated to simple. The web develops faster and more client focussed than traditional technologies. Web development is cheaper, more flexible and most importantly: everyone can contribute to its development. In concrete terms: Better interaction design, less graphic design. Better user experience, less debates about taste. Faster technology, more reliable design standards.
Simplicity. iA points out most sites are still too hard to use. In our web design profession, we sometimes forget the users who think "screenshot" means taking a picture of the computer with their camera. Sites need to focus on a rational business model, simplify to do it well, and be approachable for non-insiders.
Speed. Physical interfaces offer instant feedback. Flipping through People magazine is far faster using paper than online. Web sites need to be designed for fewer clicks with less latency. Using them needs to feel fluid. iPhone apps such as Tweetie 2 are getting there.
Beauty. User experience isn't the skin, it's the interface. Designers need to work more on interaction style than visual style—less on what the CEO wants and more on what the end user needs.
Applying these, iA sees trends towards getting design out of the way and unifying user interfaces, through tools such as standardized web fonts, grid layouts, and UI libraries such as jQuery.
Lukas Mathis's ignore the code blog offers illustrations of—and explanations for—the user interface sweet spot between visual realism and conceptual shapes. His conclusion? Designers should convey the essence of a symbol. Any more detail distracts, while any less loses the symbol's intent.
Let’s look at a symbol we actually see in user interfaces, the home button. Typically, this button uses a little house as its symbol.
The thing on the left is a house. The thing on the right means «home». Somewhere between the two, the meaning switches from «a specific house» to «home as a concept». The more realistic something is, the harder it is to figure out the meaning. Again, if the image is simplified too much, it’s not clearly and immediately recognizable anymore.
The thing on the left is a home button. The thing on the right might as well be an arrow pointing up; or perhaps it’s the ⇧ key. Let me explain this concept using an entirely unscientific graph:
People are confused by symbols if they have too many or too few details. They will recognize UI elements which are somewhere in the middle.
As an aside, I keep Coda's icon on my dock because it's so uniquely refreshing.