Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Coming to grips with the iPhone's design

Is one hand better than two?

"For years, smart-phone designers have built products around the premise that people should only have to use one hand to look up a contact, scroll through e-mail, or answer a call. Think of a business traveler rushing through an airport, trying to check voice mail while searching for the gate and recaffeinating.

But Apple, as it is wont to do, headed in the other direction with the iPhone. If you've got long, flexible fingers you can use the iPhone with one hand, but most of us have to use two to do just about anything on the iPhone's touch-screen interface, as shown in the demonstration videos produced by Apple.

The smart-phone industry is still very young, relatively speaking, so it's not like these design goals have been set in stone. But the iPhone is forcing the industry to rethink the one-handed method, if only because sacrificing that piece of design dogma has allowed Apple to make a breakthrough with the user interface on the iPhone, according to several consumer electronics design experts interviewed for this article.

"Right now, we are going through this phase where it's really open-ended," said Mark Rolston, senior vice president of creative for Frog Design. "Nobody's talking in the traditional vocabulary, they are all thinking about what we are trying to accomplish in terms of usage."

... "What has happened is that as the complexity of phones and the multidimensional capability of phones has increased, the ability to have an easy interface with them has become more challenging," said Bryce Rutter, co-founder and CEO of Metaphase Design Group.

While all designers bemoaned the lack of physical buttons, they also said Apple's touch-screen approach is a breakthrough in terms of how people interact with their phones.

You don't need a button to move the screen on an iPhone. You just move the screen, dragging your finger across it to scroll around or zoom in and out. "Touch introduces all sorts of compromises, but you can directly interact with the screen," Rolston said.

One of those compromises is the need to use two hands to properly operate an iPhone. "Some fundamental ergonomic principles come at the cost of really cool-looking design," Rutter said."    (Continued via CNET)    [Usability Resources]


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