Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Design considerations for touch screens – Part2

Pros and Cons of Touchscreens
The following overview lists advantages and disadvantages of touchscreens and summarizes their characteristics.

Touchscreen Pros
Direct: Direct pointing to objects, direct relationship between hand and cursor movement (distance, speed and direction), because the hand is moving on the same surface that the cursor is moving, manipulating objects on the screen is similar to manipulating them in the manual world

Fast (but less precise without pen)

Finger is usable, any pen is usable (usually no cable needed

No keyboard necessary for applications that need menu selections only -> saves desk space

Suited to: novices, applications for information retrieval, high-use environments

Touchscreen Cons
Low precision (finger): Imprecise positioning, possible problems with eye parallaxis (with pen, too),
the finger may be too large for accurate pointing with small objects -> a pen is more accurate.

Hand movements (if used with keyboard): Requires that users move the hand away from the keyboard; a stylus requires also hand movements to take up the pen.

Fatigue: Straining the arm muscles under heavy use (especially if the screen is placed vertically).

Sitting/Standing position: The user has to sit/stand close to the screen.

Dirt: The screen gets dirty from finger prints.

Screen coverage: The user's hand, the finger or the pen may obscure parts of the screen.

Activation: Usually direct activation of the selected function, when the screen is touched; there is no special "activation" button as with a light pen or a mouse.

This post is contributed by Mallikarjun

Monday, 23 August 2010

Design considerations for touch screens – Part1

Touchscreens - The Future
Touchscreens are operated as city guides, in museums, at POS (point-of-sale)stations or as kiosks(standalone advertising booths with user interaction) and now in the recent have made way into homes in the form of DPFs and Multimedia phones. Interaction has to be simple and fast as Users are often untrained. This calls for a screen and interaction design, which is considerably different from normal user
interface design.

Touchscreens are operated with a finger or stylus. Therefore, they provide a very direct interaction - the most direct interaction that is possible on computers today. Touchscreens may be operated very fast for certain operations and require little or no training, if applications are designed adequately. For these reasons touchscreens have many uses, especially for untrained users. Many people believe that
touchscreens will replace keyboard and mouse in the future.

The Ultimate Judge is the User!
These preliminary design guidelines for touchscreens take the characteristics of touchscreens, their advantages and disadvantages, into account. Of course, these guidelines will be refined, as our experience with touchscreens grows. The ultimate judge, however, is the user. As ELO Touch Systems quote in their guidelines:

·Testing a touchscreen application on focus groups will disclose the areas that need improvement.
·If anyone pauses in confusion for even a moment, think how to improve the application.

Summary of Touchscreen Characteristics
·Speed: high
·Accuracy: low (finger), high (pen)
·Speed control: yes
·Continuous movement: yes
·Directness: direction, distance, speed
·Fatigue: high
·Footprint: no
·Best uses: point, select

Uses for Touchscreens
Best Suited to Applications Where...
·Opportunity for training is low
·Frequency of use is low
·Accurate positioning is not required
·Little or no text or numerical input is required
·Desk space is at a premium
·The environment may be chemically or otherwise "aggressive"

Not Suited to Applications...
·Requiring training/trained users
·With high-frequency use
·Requiring accuracy
·Requiring a lot of typing

Typical Touchscreen Systems
·Public information systems: Museums, city guides
·Kiosk systems: Advertising, product information
·Systems requiring pointing and selection only

Golden Rules
Speed: Make your application run fast. Speedy systems also reduce vandalism.
Intutiveness: Try to make the application intuitive.
Choices: Limit choices.
Guidance: Guide the user as much as possible.
Testing: Testing a touchscreen application on focus groups will disclose the areas that need improvement. If anyone pauses in confusion for even a moment, think how to improve the application.

This post is contributed by Mallikarjun

Friday, 13 August 2010

Applying Principles of Salsa Dancing into UX Design

Salsa, a popular Latin American dance, and UX design have a lot of elements in common . And designers can apply some of these principles into their process.

The most important aspect in salsa (or even ballroom dance) is getting the connection right between the dancers. Similarly, for a design to succeed, the designer has to connect with the end user- understand their mental models, predict how the user would navigate, consider the user’s likes and dislikes , and design appropriately. The designer cannot design a product just because s/he finds it cool or creative.

Good dance has well synchronized sequences. This is similar to the sequence of tasks a user does. Designers usually define scenarios to define how the product will be used. The smoother the sequence is, the better the end user experience.

Movements are building blocks to any dance, which define a sequence. Similarly, every interaction in a design defines how well the task can be completed.

Patterns of foot work, swivels and turns help be a better lead and a receptive follower. The designer also needs to understand patterns in usage of elements, problems faced by users and design in a way which would be well-received by user. Patterns in rhythm and beats set the overall mood on the dance floor. Similarly, the designer needs to consider current trends or ‘mood’ to create the appropriate designs.

Space and path (floor path) are important factors which defines how the dancers will traverse and the direction (such as forward, backward, sideways). Similarly, in a design users would traverse across the interface, and the designers need to make sure that the users traverse as smootly and elegantly as possible and complete their tasks easily. On the visual front, the designer needs to take care of both positive and negative spaces for the interface to work well.

Time (or tempo) in dance defines the speed of the dancer. Dance, music (unlike other forms of art like painting) incorporates linear time pattern, which means it moves through time and space. This is an important factor for designers too. Can the user complete a task in a short time? How long do I display a notification when the user receives a mail? And, how quickly should it fade away?

In Salsa , whether dancing with a partner or in a group, there’s always a lead. The lead always aims to provide concise lead with accuracy. The other/s follow the lead; yet they have their own style and movements. If the lead is difficult to follow, the partner stops partnering him. Hence, the lead must adapt to the partner’s skills (based on whether the partner is a novice or an intermediate dancer or an expert), the available space on the dance floor and change the lead appropriately. The designer is like this lead who leads users to perform a certain desired task by understanding the user’s strengths.

Finally, one would always love to dance again with the same person if they had a good experience dancing with him/her. Just like how we designers need to ensure we have repeat users for our products!
So ensure a good ‘dance’ for your users!

Thanks to Afshan and Sannidhya for putting on their editorial hats and reviewing the draft.