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Many modern applications have no title bar, starting with the menu at the top of the window. How can you keep the user aware of which application they're using without a title bar?

Here's an example of an application facing this same problem:

web browser with no branding (Can anyone even tell what application this screenshot is from?)

Management says they want the new style of not having a title bar, but in dropping it, they lose the brand recognition we would have by keeping our name/logo at the top of the screen.

At the moment, they're pointing to the application shown in the example picture as "proof" that you don't need anything to show which application it is.

How can I keep the user aware of which application this is without a title bar?

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Icons, splash screens, empty chrome, custom icons with a brand-recognizable theme... What sort of application? Win Form? –  Austin French May 2 '14 at 19:56
    
Maybe they expect you to brand it on every single page of the app you are building. The same principle can be derived from how websites are able to brand themselves within a web browser. I would build a single mock-up screen for this application with zero branding and see how they react. –  MonkeyZeus May 2 '14 at 20:01
    
@AustinFrench, assume it's a web browser, just like the screenshot in the question. However that browser should be branded is how our app should be branded. –  Joe May 2 '14 at 20:56
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@PhoenixLogan, you're right, but how would a user know it's Firefox, other than that they "clicked the little orange thing for the internet"? –  Joe May 5 '14 at 23:29
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The fact that the new Firefox design looks so similar to Chrome is a failure on Mozilla's part. Beyond that, I'd argue that it's the user's responsibility. Nobody would expect Apple to put "iPad" in big letters across the top of the device so that users know what they're using. –  Brian Ortiz May 31 '14 at 15:55

3 Answers 3

Branding in applications isn't really that important. As @Austin French said in the comment, you may use some details to show your brand, but still, it's not what matters.

First of all - applications no longer looks the same as they did years ago (for example in windows there were blue title bars, gray embossed buttons and bars etc.). Now you can recognize browsers, code editors, etc just by design - different tabs, icons etc.

Second thing is that OSes put applications' icons in places like a dock, ctrl+tab view so even if you're lost, you can easily know where you are.

And last thing is - you usually have no opportunity to get lost, because now almost everyone has private devices like laptops, smartphones etc, and even if you must share them with others, you still have an ability to switch to another account (on mobile i know it's at least on Android Kit Kat tablets). With that customization options it's really unnecessary to put logos and application names everywhere, because if you design an app, every pixel is saint, nobody wants to waste them.

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Are you sure you can recognize different browsers just by their design? The screenshot in the question above is from a browser, and people are having a hard time telling which one it is. –  Joe May 3 '14 at 0:42
    
The question is, if you use it, do YOU recognize it? I don't have it so i can't tell, but i don't need to. If i wanted to know, i'd click "help" - there always is a name of an application. –  cyborg86pl May 3 '14 at 0:48
    
I guess the question is why it matters if the user can tell by looking at the UI. They've already chosen to install your app and launch it, and presumably they enjoy using it (or else they'd pick an alternative)...it is inherently a much more personal experience than, say, browsing the web. You may not always be able to tell the difference by looking, but it is more important to tell the difference by using. If it looks, feels, and behaves indistinguishably from another app, a logo won't help you stand out. –  Joel Salisbury May 3 '14 at 2:47

I think you would have to develop a new style of visual language (icons, colours, font, etc) or perhaps a different style of interaction if you want to different from everything that is out there using the web 2.0 design patterns. It could be a big challenge but worth the time if that's the limitations/constraints you are working with. The windows metro language is now copied so much that many applications don't have a distinct look and feel, so perhaps a new design language is due.

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An application is different...your user has chosen to use the application already; they haven't stumbled upon it. The branding for an application is conveyed in the experience: the usefulness, the enjoyability, and the functionality.

If you were using the browser in your screenshot, you'd know immediately which app it was, and not just because you clicked on the icon to launch it.

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"not just because you clicked on the icon" -- How else would you know immediately which app it was? –  Joe May 3 '14 at 0:29
    
@Joe you'd for example remember what you were doing in the application. then it's not about application, but a specific content it's made for. –  cyborg86pl May 3 '14 at 0:55
    
The experience is what should make the difference. And my point was that the user clicking the icon to launch the app should be "branding" enough. Slapping a logo at the top of a UI is not the same thing as branding. –  Joel Salisbury May 3 '14 at 2:49

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