Monday, May 30, 2011

More on the "Backwards" Approach to Gestural Interfaces

After Michael mentioned Norman's (and Nielsen's) dislike for Apple's gestural interfaces in class, I received a daily e-mail from Putting People First that features an analysis of their team's testing results:

I found a few ID-related points extremely pertinent to my experience in helping produce the mobile version of at work. They call out current gestural interfaces for their poor incorporation of the idea of feedback. In their example, they mention the varying functionality of the "back button" that sometimes causes complete, unwanted exits ("falling off the cliff") from applications. I had a similar experience. If you visit with a mobile device (or desktop UA switcher), you'll see that we have a collapsed listing of "Regions," "Topics," and "Books & Reviews" -- these collapsed lists depend on JavaScript for their expansion and display of children links. When clicked upon in the iPhone, the browser begins to look like it is loading another page. On Android and Blackberry devices, the expansion is delayed by a significant second or two. Overall, the functionality points out a mistranslation in the context of feedback for show/hide menus from desktop to mobile versions.

Scalability is another important ID factor that we've had trouble with in light of the mobile site. Many of our publication listings throughout the site feature a line for pub title, one for the author, and one for the magazine issue. Against the generally recommended 40px x 40px spacing for mobile links, there's barely 2px separating each line and thus it is extremely easy to click on the wrong part of the publication listing, even for those with smaller fingers (of course, this is more of a problem on Androids and iPhones).

What this, overall, points out is a disconnect that definitely exists in UX design for the mobile world -- a disconnect between the new "context" (gestural interfaces, for example) and desktop-safe design decisions. Although Norman and Nielsen talk more about the use of non-proven design techniques in their article, there is a whole other cans of worms that clearly exists re: the use of *proven* design techniques that can't be adapted to the lawless world of gestural interfaces and mobile devices.

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