Understanding the Touch Interface

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With the advent of the iPhone and Android, more and more mobile with touch screens are hitting the market. In spite of superficial similarities, designing an app for a touch based interface is very different from designing an app for a keypad/keyboard/stylus/mouse based interface. Just porting an older app to the touch with minimal design changes is a recipe for disaster.

This talk covers:
1. Why touch is so important?
2. The advantages of Touch
3. The disadvantages of Touch
4. What you should do


(Talk given at IndicThreads conference on mobile application development - 2010).

Published in: Technology, Health & Medicine
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Understanding the Touch Interface

  1. 1. 1 Understanding the Touch Interface Navin Kabra Tap 'n Tap / PuneTech
  2. 2. 2 Navin Kabra  Background:  Computer Science  B.Tech, IIT-Bombay  Ph.D, Univ of Wisconsin-Madison, USA  Currently  Consultant at Tap 'n Tap (Android Tablet Platform)  Also founder of PuneTech.com, BharatHealth.com  Links:  http://punetech.com  http://punetech.com/navin  http://tapntap.com  Twitter: @_navin, @punetech  Email: navin@punetech.com
  3. 3. 3 For more than a decade, when we ask users for their first impression of (desktop) websites, the most frequently-used word has been "busy." In contrast, the first impression of many iPad apps is "beautiful." - Jakob Nielsen http://www.useit.com/alertbox/ipad.html
  4. 4. 4 This talk will try to show that... iPad is “beautiful” because of “Touch” We'll dig into: How “Touch” enables this How “Touch” forces this Specifics of how you can also do the same How NOT to end up with “unusable” instead of “beautiful”
  5. 5. 5 Scope Only for “mobile” and “tablet” devices Does not apply to “Minority Report” style interfaces
  6. 6. 6 Outline Why is Touch Important The Advantages of Touch The Pitfalls of Touch What you should do...
  7. 7. 7 Why Touch is Important Touch will take over the world Dominant interface for the next billion consumers Casual users Special purpose devices/apps Not just for mobile app designers Everyone who's producing content e.g. Websites, games, entertainment
  8. 8. 8 The Advantages of Touch More Intuitive Interface Adaptive Interface - Changes With Context Faster Especially for untrained/casual users More compact devices No keyboard/mouse/wires Better for casual users And there will be lots and lots of those!
  9. 9. 9 Touch Is More Intuitive #1 Natural Interface Direct Manipulation  Content is the interface  Interaction & output in the same place Realistic look-n-feel  Pinch-zoom for photos vs. click to zoom Modeless  No Shift / Control / Alt
  10. 10. 10 Touch Is More Intuitive #2 Simpler Navigation “Forced” by “Disadvantages of Touch” Covered in later slides Net result:  Less cognitive overload  Progressive disclosure better for users
  11. 11. 11 Adaptive Interfaces Touch interface changes with context Number/size/location of buttons change with context Not possible with keyboards and other hardware input devices Possible but largely unused in mouse based GUIs
  12. 12. 12 Adaptive interface example #1 Different “soft” keyboards in different contexts URL Input Keyboard No space bar “.com” key “Go” key instead of “Enter” Email Input Keyboard '@' and '_' keys more prominent
  13. 13. 13 Adaptive Interface example #2 ThickButtons Keyboard
  14. 14. 14 New modes of interaction possible Advanced Gestures Pressure etc etc etc Lots of innovation possible
  15. 15. 15 Innovation Example: Swype
  16. 16. 16 Touch is no substitute for good design iPhone Blackberry Storm Source: ChangeWaveResearch
  17. 17. 17 The Pitfalls of Touch “Everything is best for something and worst for something else.” - Bill Buxton “God is in the details.” - Anonymous Devil
  18. 18. 18 Laundry list of “Touch” shortcomings (Note: all these have solutions, but you still need to be aware of them...)
  19. 19. 19 Fat Fingers Problem: Fingers are fatter than mouse cursor.Problem: Fingers are fatter than mouse cursor. (especially for fat people!)(especially for fat people!) Solution: Make size of buttons & other clickableSolution: Make size of buttons & other clickable areas must be large enoughareas must be large enough Photo by brokenarts via everystockphoto.com
  20. 20. 20 Fat Fingers – Implication Problem: Effective screen size reduced Solution: Must prioritize buttons (i.e. actions)
  21. 21. 21 No mouse pointer Problem: No “Select.” No “Select-Delete” No “Select-Copy-Paste” Solution: Identify relevant use-cases and come up with workarounds
  22. 22. 22 No Select-Delete - Example http://punetech.com How do I go to http://google.com?
  23. 23. 23 No Select-Delete - Solution http://punetech.com Delete-all
  24. 24. 24 No Select-Copy-Paste - Example Cc: How to move this to “Cc:”? To: navin@punetech.com, amit@punetech.com
  25. 25. 25 No precision Problem: Finger taps not as precise as mouse cursor positioning
  26. 26. 26 No Precision - Example http://punetecch.com How to select and delete this extra 'c'?
  27. 27. 27 No Hover Problem: No tooltips No change in cursor shape Solution: Button labels must be clearer. “Affordances” must be clearer.
  28. 28. 28 My resume is online. My resume is online. My resume is online. My is online. Affordance Example resume Which of these Is clickable?
  29. 29. 29 No Keyboard Problem: Most of the time, there's no keyboard No keyboard shortcuts No Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V No Ctrl-A No <TAB> Solution: Identify relevant use-cases and come up workarounds
  30. 30. 30 Cc: No <TAB> Example To: navin@punetech.com How to go to the CC field?
  31. 31. 31 Cc: No <TAB> Example Solution To: navin@punetech.com NEXT The “Next” Button
  32. 32. 32 Standard “Touch” Gestures Problem: People expect gestures to work. (e.g. swipe, fling.) Solution: Must implement standard gestures
  33. 33. 33 No “Right-Click” Problem: No “right-click-mouse” context menu (Non-)Solution: Long-press. (Painful to use.) Solution: Re-think app to not need context-menu
  34. 34. 34 Performance Problem: People expect/need touch interfaces to be much more responsive Solution: Must allocate time for performance measurements and tuning
  35. 35. 35 Low Discoverability Problem: Users might never discover some features/capabilities/gestures Contrast with: Mouse+menu GUI – Users can systematically explore all menu options Solution: Design for gradual discoverability
  36. 36. 36 Performance Thresholds 0.1 sec response time: “Seamless”  User doesn't even notice your UI  “Natural” 1 sec response time: “Decent”  User notices interface lags  But “flow” is not interrupted 1-10 sec response time: “Laggy”  Irritating >10 sec response time: “Lose Users”  User will switch to another task
  37. 37. 37 Don't Overdo Avoid Wacky “Innovative” interfaces  Low discoverability  Confuses users e.g. Tapping a picture does what?  Enlarges it?  Opens Album?  Pops up navigation options?  Flips the picture?  Opens hyperlink?  Does nothing...
  38. 38. 38 Other problems Finger covers screen No tactile feedback - Must look at screen Often requires both hands Accidental Activation Lack of consistency across apps
  39. 39. 39 What should you do?
  40. 40. 40 All developers must use a touch based device as their primary device for at least 1 week! Understand Touch
  41. 41. 41 Eat your own dogfood Must use your own app to understand its shortcomings
  42. 42. 42 Not just mobile apps Everybody is affected Website designers Game designers Any content publishers in any format
  43. 43. 43 “In the touch screen environment non-intuitive information architecture will be even more frustrating to your users” Source: http://www.foilball.com/best-practices-of-good-touch-screen-interface-design
  44. 44. 44 More Info  Link-bundle for further reading: http://bit.ly/cOqFzS  If in Pune: – Join the Pune Android Developers Group – (Google Groups)  Contact me: – navin@tapntap.com

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