Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mobile Experiences - The new paradigm

The touch paradigm ...

"After seeing the Palm Pre I realised something I kind of knew for sometime, but could not really express in words, now I think I can. The iPhone introduced a new paradigm in mobile user experiences, multi-touch and gestural navigation. This is obvious somehow, but I always had a small problem with the iPhone UI in that the control of it was quite basic, a sort of forward-back-up-down-in-out UI. I have referred to it as a pretty mess, it works but does not scale very far. When I first saw it this lack of scalability bothered me, on the other hand like many others I was totally mesmerised with the fluidity of touch, but I first somehow dismissed the multi-touch and gestures to be a gimmicky. I was wrong, it is the beginning of the touch paradigm.

Let me try to elaborate. There has been 3 paradigms of handhelds user experiences. The first was dedicated function keys, where each of the key functions had its dedicated key and leading to either too many keys (remote controls) or impossible to use user interfaces (Japanese Watches) phones with dedicated keys simply did not provide the function scalability needed. In 1994 Nokia introduced the first soft key phone, with the 2110 this became paradigm shift, and in about 15 years all phones with keys have followed this into its defacto standard 3 soft keys (OK, Menu and Back, of which OK is surrounded with 4-way navigation). Two years ago Apple brought out its iPhone. It introduced the first finger only operated touch user interface. The touch screen, its integration and responsiveness was at such a quality that it immediately laid the fundamental for a change in the mobile landscape. The fact that it was a paradigm shift, I only now discovered when I played with the Palm Pre. The Palm Pre was designed among other by Paul Mercer, a friend and brilliant UE designer. He had the good taste to recognize that multi-touch is a paradigm, and just copied what Apple did and then took it further, much further. The Palm Pre is the first touch UE offering a new UI style, which is essentially is a new way of handling core navigation, like navigating in list, across applications and in and out of applications.

Seeing this led me to mature my thinking. There is three layers in User Experience or a UI Style. The highest level I call Bling (this is because, it caters to the visual senses) it contains the visuals, colours, content density and partly motion. The next level below it is Control (This caters to the mind or rationale) This is where the efficiency is created, where one gets stuff done, one navigates into applications, within applications and between applications. It is where services should be integrated. It is much more than functionality, more than an application. The lowest level of a user experience is the Utility level. In this level one experiences such thing as application installation, network control, power management. It is where latency is managed. This level of user experience is almost totally provided by engineering, except when operating at world class level, when UE designers and Engineers co-operate deeply.

Now if we look at empiric's, my opinion is that the Asians, with Samsung, LG at the forefront have realised that they need to invest in user experience, but it has been exclusively done at Bling level. Companies like TAT has greatly helped to create this layer in experience, the motions are fluid, there is fun animations , things look good."    (Continued via ChristianLindholm.com, putting people first)    [Usability Resources]

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