Amazon lists several books about user interface design that received good reviews. Some books refer to Web designs, and others take a general approach. Keep in mind that a good graphic layout makes information easier to understand, but the overall "trail" someone follows to perform an action must have a clear focus and provide information that simplifies intuitive choices. I see that difference every day when I use the Macintosh "finder" and the Windows "explorer" to locate files.
The important points here center on a thoughtful approach to the design of a user interface, the use of well-organized and clear information and choices, operations that simplify a user's interaction with equipment, and a balance between the time needed to perform a task and its complexity. For me, the need to frequently "back track" out of confusing menus indicates a poor design. And if you create a complicated product, please write a comprehensive manual and a solid quick-start guide.
User Interfaces Should Be Easy to Navigate and that is the "social commitment aspect" of good design rather than design for the sake of realising functionalities. I think there should be a standard to ensure product design satisfies some aspects of this though this idea may sound as dictative in nature against the free spirit of design. But then no one should "suffer" just becasue s\he has bought the product ...!
Several months ago I switched from a very basic cell phone to an Android phone, with much trepidation. I actually had one salesman tell me that it might not be a good idea for me based upon the technological leap it was from my old phone. I decided to take the plunge, and I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. I have never had a "smart" phone with a keyboard, so I can't speak to that issue, but I have been very impressed by the smoothness of the all-touch interface on my Android phone. I'm sure that the Apple interface is also very smooth, but I haven't really worked with it.
It is one of the few times that a software based product has exceeded my expectations. I began to feel like the darn thing was anticipating my every move when I started using it. It would flash help keys when it sensed that I was doing something that could be done an easier way, and lead me through a different way to do what I was trying to do. I found the learning curve to be very pleasant, and fast.
As to the issue of emergency dialing, my android phone allows emergency dialing by pushing a button on the screen, even when the phone is locked. I had never actually tried it until I saw these posts. It takes you straight to the number pad in one touch.
I have pretty big paws too, but I don't have much trouble with the interface. I use "swype" inputting for texting, and find it to be pretty unbelievable. You just drag your finger or thumb around on the keyboard (screen), and it detects what it thinks you are trying to spell. I find it to be very accurate. Don't know how it does it, but it works very well for me.
I'm eager to see what Windows 8 looks like, since it appears to be moving toward the tile and touch interface of the phone world.
I'm with you on this one, Jon. Sometimes when I'm struggling to open a container of apple juice or a jar of salsa, I think of my 86-year-old mother. There is no way she would be able to open these containers without a socket wrench. As for small buttons, I bought a calculator that has large, raised buttons. Can't find a phone that does. My thumbs are too big for texting.
Jon, you've hit three of my ticked-off consumer hot buttons: easy to use interfaces, stuff that's easy for first-time users to figure out, and stuff that's physically easy to open for the growing senior population. At one time or another I'm all three. I'm gravitating towards products that are well designed for older users mostly because they are simple and obvious. Plus I hate wasting time figuring out how to open or operate something, and am likely to take a scissors to it (like unruly clamshell packaging) or not buy/return it (usually I go for the first option--saves the most time of all).
My personal cell phone, which I only use when traveling, is the Jitterbug. Big easy to read buttons, obvious and simple menus. No weird icons that resemble nothing in the known universe and are too small to see anyway. It does absolutely nothing except receive and make voice calls. If I need to read email, I most likely need to do that on my computer. My home office desktop phone is so simple Plantronics doesn't make them anymore: a small black box with number, on/off, and mute buttons, and a volume adjust wheel, plus a headset.
If accidents or whatever happen, both are instantly easy to use.
If I get injured in an accident or become incapacitated in some way, I want a communication device that's easy to use so I can quickly connect with a 911 operator. I don't want to go through several steps to unlock a cell phone and make a call. And in an accident we don't always think clearly.
People who create new products often overlook the need to design for older people, too. Opening some boxes of food presents big challenges for stroke victims with only one useful hand or for people with limited flexibility due to arthritis, for example. I have a phone on my desk purchased specifically because it has large numbered buttons I find easier to press than smaller buttons on portable phones. I also abandoned the Apple keyboard that came with my Macintosh because the small buttons gave insufficient tactile feedback and make it too easy to hit an incorrect key. In this case, a practicel keyboard beat out a sleek and cool design.
There's something to be said for a more controlled environment. At the very least, there would be some accountability. It's unforgivable for a software bug to cross major revisions; that tells me the software developer is more interested in marketing hype of a new release to maintain the revenue stream. Flash over function, I suppose one could say.
I could not agree more with the general premise of this article. User interfaces are getting worse, particularly those that are in the second, third or fourth revisions, because the designers assume that the user is familiar with the earlier versions. I recently drove a rental car in Los Angeles with a radio that was so complicated, I couldn't figure out how to turn it on in five minutes, so I went on my way without ever using it. Again, the assumption is that the driver has used similar devices in the past. I'm sure the interfaces are easy to use once you are familiar with them, but there seems to be no thought given to first-time users.
Jon, I hope you are right about phone interfaces and tech following the PC interface/tech curve. But I'm less hopeful, mostly because the volumes and target customers are quite different. People who have to use computers for actual work tend to be less patient with too much "choice" in features and interfaces, etc. and just want to get on with things. But "choice" is something that consumers, buyers of cellphones, either actually want or are perceived to want by manufacturers. I mean, to a lot of people they're a fashion accessory, lol.
Hi, TJ. We could go back to a phone monopoly such as the one AT&T had for many years. Then it was a big deal to get a colored "shell" for a phone and the phone company fought any attempts to add non-AT&T equipment to a phone line. (Just kidding about going back to the monopoly.)
Competition among suppliers of all types of equipment drives the "need" for new features and capabilities. We saw this effect in the early days of PCs, when many companies jumped into the market with new features, proprietary operating systems, off graphic formats, and the like. Eventually things settled down and a PC is a PC, regardless of vendor. Perhaps the same thing will happen in the cell-phone market in 10 to 15 years.
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