For those of you who have not heard of Piehead, we are a digital agency with offices in Philadelphia, New York and Portsmouth New Hampshire. I am a cognitive psychologist by training and a user experience strategist in practice. I will talk today about best practices for mobile devices from a cognitive psychological perspective. We humans have developed a brain that is exquisitely tuned to the natural environment in which we evolved. Our visual system is sensitive to motion that might be a predator or prey, our brains seem hardwired to recognize familiar faces, and cognitively we seem to extract patterns from nearly everything. We are not so good, however, at logical thought. Our memories are faulty, and we are easily distracted from the focus of our attention. As a psychologist in the user experience field, I see my challenge as developing a digital world that is exquisitely tuned to the human brain. In the next few minutes I will show you some examples of how we can design a digital world that resonates with human capabilities.
When you look at this iBooks image, it looks like a real book, the center is indented with shading to resemble a binding, the title is at the top and the page numbers are at the bottom. The stack of pages along the right and left side suggest they can be turned. In language of psychology, the stack of pages affords turning. The image suggests the action a user should take to navigate to the next page. No instruction is necessary because the affordance of the digital book invites you to interact with it like a physical book.
Tapping the page provides further navigation across the top and bottom of the screen. But notice that the focus is always on the content, the content is primary and the navigation can be invoked when needed. Human attention is limited -- every object on a page competes with every other for attention. Providing navigation elements only as they are needed, a design feature called progressive disclosure, helps the user stay focused. An example of progressive disclosure is seen in the page finder at the bottom of the screen. Only when the user interacts with the page finder does the chapter and page information appear. One of the strengths of human thought is our use of metaphor in comprehending novel situations. Here the library metaphor evokes a mental model of shelves of books, thus enabling a user to predict what will happen if they tap the link. Fulfilling a user’s expectations provides a sense of control and well-being, suggesting they may interact with your app longer.
Knowledge transfer from one situation to another is further strength of the human mind. Using standard gestures in a manner consistent with most mobile devices enables users to ”just know” how your app will work. Knowledge transfer means your app will seem intuitive for even novice users. Being consistent with existing standards is indeed a best practice, but you shouldn’t be afraid to improvise – the field is just getting started and new gestures will certainly be added as it matures.
Some assistance may be necessary for new gestures such as moving the iPad to pan a picture in this interactive book. The best option is to use imagery rather than offering a text explanation. Pictures, especially cartoons are understood very quickly and tend to be remembered better than textual descriptions. Note also that we have terrible memories and tend to forget (or ignore) instruction if it is not immediately necessary. Don’t make people remember information from one page to the next, a discreet reminder will always be useful.
People, generally, do not like to think more than we have to; we have evolved to follow our intuition, not think logically. Furthermore, most mobile apps start without a lengthy setup – users become accustomed to immediate access to content and may abandon an app that makes us think. In this example, with several setup steps, including changing Safari settings, the author actually apologizes for the cumbersome process!
Finally, understanding your audience and the context in which they will use your application is crucial. Many tablet readers use them in the evening, in circumstances where their attention may be divided and/or sporadic. Consider user research methods such as contextual inquiry or diary studies to get a glimpse of how users really interact with your application.
I’ve added this slide as a reminder of the best practices discussed in earlier slides, but the message I want to leave you with is in the next slide…
If you can remember these human capabilities in designing your next app, you’re sure to delight your users.