Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The iPhone User Eperience: A First Look

Ask Tog on the iPhone ...

"A collective gasp was heard around the world following the January, 2007, MacWorld Conference, when Steve Jobs pulled the wraps off the long-rumored iPhone. He proclaimed it a revolutionary product with a brand-new “multi-touch” interface as breakthrough and breathtaking as the mouse interface of the 1960s.

Is iPhone as revolutionary as claimed? Is the multi-touch interface truly breakthrough as claimed? Yes and no. Let’s take a look.

A Brief History of Cell Phones
The original cell phones made one single break with the interface of the wired phones that had come before: The user dialed, then pressed Send, instead of dialing “live” as had been done historically. That’s it. Added later were such niceties as keyboards for message and email construction, borrowed whole, again, from the wired world. (Even the Send button was borrowed from earlier Radio-Telephone technology.)

Occasionally, bits and pieces of interface innovation have found their way into subsequent cell phones, but no one has ever revisited Bell Lab’s pushbutton phone design from the 1950s with its upside-down adding machine keyboard (with the exception of Smart Phones, based on the 1870s typewriter keyboard).

iPhone is revolutionary, not a big surprise coming from Steve Jobs. He knows how to gather a tiny team of brilliant young minds and work them half to death until they innovate beyond any reasonable expectations. He has the common sense to know what will ultimately find favor. And he has the hardened-steel man parts to take a chance and roll with it. What’s a pity is that so few others in this industry share those triple strengths.

Multi-Touch Interface History
While the iPhone as a whole may be revolutionary, the individual elements forming the interface are not so new. William Buxton was pushing multi-hand input back in the 1980s when the world was just waking up to the mouse, already 20 years old at the time. Several researchers were experimenting with gestural interfaces in 1990s, myself included. I was reminded of this only minutes after Steve’s speech when my partner, Jakob Nielsen, called me to say, “Jobs just announced your pinch interface!”

I hadn't thought about my pinch interface in years. It had been part of my Starfire Project at Sun Microsystems, a look at the future, but, when we turned the project into a film, the scene showing it was cut to keep the film within reasonable bounds. That kept it out of the 1993 film, but not out of my 1996 book, Tog on Software Design, where, on page 78, my two-fingered shrink-objects-via-pinching gesture, working exactly as Jobs described, indeed appears..."    (Continued via Ask Tog)    [Usability Resources]

Two Finger Pinch Gesture - Usability, User Interface Design

Two Finger Pinch Gesture


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