Sunday, July 20, 2008

On a Small Screen, Just the Salient Stuff

The beauty of a small screen ...

"When Steven P. Jobs introduced the Apple iPhone 18 months ago, he contended that viewing the Web on it was comparable to browsing on a desktop personal computer.

As it turns out, Mr. Jobs may well have understated the quality of the iPhone Web experience. Visiting Web sites that have been redesigned for the iPhone is often a quicker and more pleasing experience than it is on those increasingly cinema-style desktop displays, which routinely have 20-inch or larger screens.

It seems counterintuitive, but small really is beautiful.

The experience is not limited to special-purpose applications — say, to public transit sites like Nextbus, which are ideally suited for viewing on a smartphone. Evening commuters impatiently waiting for their rides home obviously are not going to race back to the office to check the schedule on their PCs — but they can find it easily on their hand-held devices.

A quick trip to Web sites like Facebook, Twitter, Zillow or Powerset, all of which have been redesigned to take advantage of the iPhone, makes it clear that bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to exploring cyberspace. By stripping down the Web site interface to the most basic functions, site designers can focus the user’s attention and offer relevant information without distractions.

It’s obvious that reading a Facebook newsfeed or looking up the value of a friend’s home on Zillow doesn’t require a 20-inch computer display. It may also make more sense to keep the grocery list, play a game or read an online newspaper while mobile.

Moreover, a new wave of applications from companies like eBay, Bank of America and America Online that are designed for the second-generation iPhone 3G, which went on sale Friday, will further blur the line between the Web and the iPhone. The eBay application is available as a free download from Apple’s new “app store,” which is part of its iTunes service, and allows users to track auctions, place bids and flip through images of items for sale.

“By having fewer items to scan for on a small display, users can find what they want more quickly and can be more confident that they have made the right choice,” said Ben Shneiderman, a computer scientist who founded the Human-Computer Interaction Library at the University of Maryland. “If you just put the juicy stuff up there it works better."    (Continued via NYTimes.com, John Markoff)    [Usability Resources]

Powerset - Usability, User Interface Design

Powerset

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