Thursday, December 07, 2006

The mobile user interface challenge

Designing a mobile interface that we can all use ...

"I'll admit to having been strongly critical over the years of user interfaces on many high-tech products. I'm a techie, yet I often have problems getting products to work. Counterintuitivity is the apparent order of the day, along with thick manuals that nobody has the time to read and ever-worsening (and ever-more-expensive) customer support.

With so many of these products waiting under trees (and wherever they keep them in IT departments) this holiday season, I thought this might be a good time to make my annual New Year's appeal for easier-to-use mobile devices and computers.

I use literally dozens of different mobile computing products every year, and my general rule is as follows: If I need to read the manual, the product goes back. This may seem harsh, but being an experienced computer and mobile device user, I don't think it should be necessary to read a manual or, heaven forbid, attend training or buy supplementary books. After all, productivity is ultimately the reason we buy such items, at least in a business setting, and if a product requires reading, education, training or calls to tech support or the help desk, then I'm not being productive. Rather, difficult-to-use products are more properly aimed at a market consisting of engineers and others who like technology for technology's sake.

Sure, as an engineer, I like to tinker, experiment, try new things, and, yes, even read manuals when it is warranted. But it's never warranted when the product is aimed at a general consumer audience, as most modern computers and communicators are. Such products must be so easy to use that it's quite obvious, or come with documentation that simply and thoroughly explains how to use the product -- or both. In addition, devices should automatically direct the user to more information on the Web and automatically update themselves when required via transparent downloads from vendor sites on the Internet."    (Continued via ComputerWorld)    [Usability Resources]

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