Monday, December 8, 2008

Touchscreen Design Insights from UIQ Technology

I really like SlideShare. Since I've started my curriculum, I've found numerous interesting presentations regarding interaction and experience design here. That said, this post is not about SlideShare (though that could be an interesting topic). The topic of inquiry is a great primer on the design of touchscreen interfaces for mobile devices that I came across on SlideShare. It provides insightful design tips along with an overview of the current state of the technology. It was written by UIQ Design, a Swedish firm that has a mobile design practice.

Here is a summary of the takeaways that were of special interest to me:
  • Overview of the two dominant styles of touchscreen interaction: "double tap" and "drill down". The first style works by requiring two "taps" to initiate an action. The first "tap" on an object puts it in focus, then a second "tap" on the object itself, or an options menu, is provides access to a set of available actions (think tablet PCs). On the other hand, the "drill down" style requires that user tap objects only once to immediately access all available actions (think iPhone).
  • Insights regarding how design principles associated to traditional mobile device interfaces need to be adapted to support finger-based touchscreen interactions. (1) The need to provide quick and short interactions can best be satisfied by offering direct access to applications and data (think one-click access on iPhone); (2) To deliver an experience that is easy to use and learn, objects, and the actions they afford, should be made obvious; Lastly, (3) designers need to address the challenge of the small screen while needing to support large hit areas that support finger touches.
  • Description of two most common touchscreen technologies on portable devices: Resistive and Capacitive. The former is a technology that is used on the screen of palms and other devices that rely on a stylus for interaction. The benefits provided by these screens include costs coupled with their support for handwriting recognition technologies. Capacitive technology is better suited for finger-touch based devices. It is highly durable and can support multi-touch interfaces. (Some details in this area are definitely lost by the absence of the talking notes).
  • Impact of screen resolution and size on the design of mobile applications. Two common approaches are used by designers to design interfaces that work across devices with different specs: "design by pixels" and "design by size". The names are pretty self-explanatory - the first is exemplified by when designers create interfaces that are always fully viewable on the screen of the device. Unfortunately, this often causes fonts to become unreadable on smaller devices. The other approach, "design by size", is where the icons and objects in the interface do not change size regardless of device size. In smaller devices the user is always able to read the fonts, though he may often have to scroll in order to access all options. The suggestion from UIQ is for designers to leverage a mix of both of these approaches.

UIQ Presentation on Touchscreen Design

[via TouchUsability]

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