User Interfaces & Interactions
User Interfaces & Interactions, including touch & gesture based interfaces will always be subject to individual bias, experience, style, and preferences. Individuals using new interfaces either because of it being on a new device (e.g. moving from Blackberry to iPhone) or a changed interface on the existing class of device (e.g. Blackberry Bold – Keyboard to Blackberry Storm – Touch) will learn to adapt – most people do so assuming that they are not turned off to give up the device entirely (either due to other functions such as Phone Call Quality or having compelling features forcing them to adapt to the new interface).
Adaptation happens, I can safely say based on my own experience and those of my network – family, friends, and colleagues. For example several friends of mine initially remarked that they had trouble using the iPhone’s soft keyboard compared to physical keys of a Blackberry. Over a period these folks have gained a liking to the soft keyboard and adapted to it. This adaptation could be natural – they learn to adapt, and get better at it with each use (like learning anything – Golf for example). Or the adaptation could be ‘forced’ – that is you use the interface and ‘compromise’ with it because of other features on the device. One may learn to deal with the Apple iPhone soft keyboard because of the number of applications available on it. I for one still struggle using Soft Keyboards and I am sure there are others like me. I think interfaces, even touch, will be highly subjective to individuals.
Apple’s single button for navigating the user interface on the IOS devices at times is constrained. Are consumers able to adapt and use it effectively – absolutely yes! But that does not imply that it is easiest way or the most intuitive way. And Apple may even move away from that one Button given the current release of IOS – 4.3 supports Multi-Touch gestures (I tried them and they work absolutely great – even better than using the Home Button).
Minimalism in design does not translate to simplicity. In other words, just because the device has minimal or one or no buttons, does not imply it is easy to use. Ease of use, or simplicity is a function of features, and the context of it being used. Assuming you are in a bus, with one hand held above to anchor yourself, and you want to access an app. In the multi-touch version of IOS – you have to use 4 or 5 fingers to ‘swipe up’ on the screen and then select the app to launch. Try doing that with one hand… If this example is not practical enough imagine trying to call somebody by looking them up using one hand on a touch screen. That exercise can be made ‘simple’ by a search button – not a web search – but being able to search for anything – any contact, any app by touching the search button. I like that about my Nexus S and use it frequently. Search is not just about web search – but finding information on the device itself. And as we live more of our life in the Smartphone or Tablet – being able to search easily is critical.
Independent of buttons, simplifying use and removing redundancy is beautiful – I find the extra press of “OK” after entering the 4-digit security code annoying on my Nexus S compared to an IOS device ….
Post Inspired By, and kind of response to Ross Rubin of NPD wrote an excellent blog post on the subject of buttons and touch-enabled devices.
Must Read: “Living With Complexity” by Donald Norman