Archive for the 'User Interface' Category

Christian Robertson

Aesthetic Interactions

There is much conversation in the interaction design world about the number of clicks required to perform a given task. There are usability teams out there with stop watches and video cameras timing how long it takes users to move through a flow. While these exercises are enlightening, they often miss the more critical question: how does a user feel about interacting with the UI? We have heard this enigmatic success criterion described as the whole “user experience”, but the this term doesn’t give much insight into how we might evaluate the value of an interface.

If we can’t measure the true value of an interface solely with clicks or milliseconds, how might we establish another criterion to evaluate the impact of a design? Fortunately interface design is not the first industry to deal with this question. Architecture, lettering and typography, industrial design, communication design and fashion all have practical and emotional impacts. These fields have relied on the study of aesthetics to help evaluate their work.

While aesthetic principles overlap from one design field to another, each discipline has its own vocabulary and emphasis. Below is a list of seven criteria to evaluate the aesthetic impact of a design. This is not a complete list, nor is it an easy recipe for good design. It does not replace user testing and research (I’ll share more thoughts on that later). However, it does give a framework to understand why users are reacting to a given design. Continue Reading »

//  The G1 is here.  Good start… further to go
T-Mobile’s long awaited “G1” has finally arrived, and it did so with a splash. Pre-orders for the device rumored totaling 1.5M. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the launch was far from the big splash that early reports might have indicated.  Few companies can rival the hoopla that accompany Apple’s product launches, but did the G1 live up to its moniker as an “iPhone” killer?  The verdict seems to be mixed.  Its 3.2MP camera, the QWERTY keyboard, and its open-source Android-powered operating system are headlining features.  But once people have dived into it, they’ve uncovered battery performance issues, an underwhelming selection of applications in the Android Marketplace, and a non-standard headphone jack.  Dealbreakers?  Maybe not.  Time will tell how this device fares against the legion of capable “smart phones” out on the market or debuting soon, but what can be said with certainty is that the premise of an open source mobile phone OS has become reality.  How it evolves, changes and grows into itself will now become the key item to watch.

//  Mobile phone skin rashes, found BAD
Remember when you thought the radiation emitted from cell phones was going to give you brain cancer?  Well, the FDA doesn’t think you are at any risk for adverse health effects from cell phones.  But…BAD thinks you can get skin rashes!  The British Association of Dermatologists notes that cell phones containing nickel could produce unexplained rashes on the face and ear.

//  We swipe our iPhones, but what if they tapped us back?
Apple’s introduction of gestures and multi-touch has changed the way we interact with our cell phones.  Flick.  Pinch.  Swipe. Drag.  Microsoft wants in on the game too.  But they want our phones to participate as well.  What if your phone could “tap” or “rub” you when you received a text message or some other notification?  Though incessant vibrating can become obnoxious, I am not too sure that tapping or rubbing would be any better.  If my phone “rubbed” my palm, I might drop it in disbelief.  Maybe these are new, less-intrusive ways for our devices to communicate with us, but somehow, I think most people might opt to remain with their obnoxious vibrating phone.

Joe Pemberton

User Experience Critique: HTC Touch Diamond

HTC Touch Diamond: Your Windows Mobile is Showing

In March I posted HTC’s beautiful promotional video of the Touch Diamond UI. Now that the device is commercially available (in the UK for now) we can see the interface design in action. In a fairly in-depth video the mobile bloggers at run the UI through its paces.

The UI belies the Windows Mobile 6.1 OS underneath — it is nowhere apparent in HTC’s official video. But the problem isn’t necessarily Windows Mobile as the HTC UI does a great job at hiding it. The problem is the gaps they left in the Touch Diamond UI that let the Windows Mobile core UI poke through. The result is a disjointed experience as the user bounces between what seems like a solid, gestural and accelerometer-enabled touch experience and back to the basic and ugly Windows Mobile UI. As you can see from the video, there are clearly breakdowns in the experience where the new HTC UI behaves differently from the Windows Mobile underneath.

This is a case study of the fragmentation in the go-to-market (commercialization) process. The device manufacturers, the carriers and the operating systems come from different places with different motivations and business models. The parties involved are never fully able (despite what seems to be a really fantastic effort from HTC) to make that industry fragmentation invisible to users.

The video illustrates some of the noteworthy gaps in the user experience. Play by play after the bump…

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Jared Benson

The Apple iPhone: Part II of III

The web is blowing up today with content on the new iPhone. It seems everyone has a perspective, and I’m no different.

Revolutionary or not, Apple did a few things right with this iPhone debut, which I’m convinced will resonate with today’s mobile users.

Portrait-landscape orientation: As media enjoyment and management grows on the mobile platform, mobile users have had to accommodate that awkward moment when you have to physically pivot the handset in your hands in order to view an image or watch mobile TV. In those instances, there is often a sense of disorientation while the user remaps expectations for the D-Pad, and explores how to interact with softkeys, etc. By creating a device that orients itself and keeps tactile interactions consistent, they’ve created a device that feels native to both orientations.
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I’ve tried to separate myself from my Apple fetishism, and slough off Jobs’ reality-distortion effect and really assess this mornings’ announcement from the perspective of it’s impact on mobile user experience. (Certainly, a true UI critique will occur once we can get a device in hand in *sigh* June.

At the end of his keynote this morning, Steve Jobs summed up Apple’s mobile strategy saying, “There’s an old Wayne Gretsky quote I love — ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it’s been.’” Which felt apropos given the product they had just announced. But, is the Apple iPhone announcement truly a “revolution of the first order?”

My take is that this is not a revolution for mobile phones. No, it feels more like catching up in a major way in an industry that has been behind far too long. Features like push email are best practices (read: Blackberry), not revolutionary. Integrating mail, voicemail, sms, contacts, voice calls, photos, music and video is also not revolutionary, but Apple is able to realize it where others have not.
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