I read this recent article (link not provided since it felt a bit like an ad) on The Verge about the trend of looking beyond 16:9 aspect ratio screen displays, at least according to what is on show at CES.

It makes me wonder what the exact relationship is between screen size and aspect ratio, and the way that apps are designed. Is the app design influencing the screen size and aspect ratio more than the hardware is dictating what the interface looks like?

If we remember back to when the particular release of the iPhone that introduced the 'notch' and how designers were frantically scrambling to come up with the right layout to work with this 'enhancement' (even if it is just ignoring it all together and moving the interface down a fraction), it would seem like for certain types of devices the relationship is one-way.

However, I tend to think that the article suggests at least for desktops the hardware is limiting the way applications are designed and laid out these days, so the laptops are starting to move away from wide screen designs that don't seem to offer much improvement or is limiting to how application interfaces can be designed.

Does anyone else have any insights into this? Whether it is some formal research or just anecdotal evidence that there is some relationship of whether software design dictates hardware specifications or vice versa (or if it is even balanced in most contexts).

1 Answer 1


You are close to a philosophical question here 😁

I think there is kind of a two-way street idea there indeed. Clearly there are several things to take into account, I think. To illustrate this reciprocal tendency, I'll take one example: the touch screen on mobile.

Constructors influence usage

I don't really know where does the first touch screen comes from, to be honest, I didn't dive into this kind of research yet. But if we take the story around the first iPhone Steve Jobs came with the idea of removing the stylus for direct screen interaction from the equation. This idea could come from the need to limit the loss of the stylus and have something more direct and intuitive. From this observation Jobs think of this solution.

The screen and its format arrived into the industry, and designers had to adapt. (and adopt)

Usage influences constructor

This was the first screen suggesting a touch interaction. After several months/years of usage, we discovered (good designers, but also interface designers) ways to improve usability.

Technologies around the touch interaction evolved years after year, pushing some limit way way far. Now we can unlock phone and log in services with a touch on our screen (fingerprint scanned on the screen directly)

The adoption of the touch-to-log action has been so big than constructor found ways to make it more direct.

But let's take another example: video. The web wasn't built for media at its beginning, but now, video is the most consumed format on the web. Screens for smartphone are now built to make it optimized for video and video games. So yeah, video game designer and designer of other kind of video services play an important role in the evolution of both soft and hardware.

When we are not capable of doing a precise kind of interaction, we work on the hardware, when the harware is ready, software can play with it. But needs comes from both feasibility and expectations. The game is to know what comes first. But do we really need to know that?

Screen evolution influences design patterns

In both cases, screen evolution influence design patterns, and may create new needs from our clients/customer/users. The evolution of softwares and hardware make thing possible now, that weren't some years ago.

Sometimes, constructors take physical design design that can impact strongly the way apps are designed, but also the way some phones are simply never sold because they are not usable. (the first foldable phone wasn't a real success :D)

Design Patterns influence user behavior

Well, tricky topic, I'll just share this article: https://hbr.org/2020/02/how-digital-design-drives-user-behavior It's a bit off topic I think :p


It's a small thought on your first thought, nothing really documented, just a feeling and my way to see all of this. So it's personal, don't take this for nothing else than a non-mature thinking. And sorry for the typo, not my mother tong and didn't proof read myself.

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    +1 I think it is a well-considered response, and it is by no means an easy question to answer. Hopefully you might come across some information or references to support your views :)
    – Michael Lai
    Jan 25, 2021 at 23:01
  • Thanks Michael :) Jan 26, 2021 at 9:35

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