Notes from “Buttons are a Hack”

The following are my notes taken on 12 January 2012 while watching the UIE Virtual Seminar “Buttons are a Hack” presented by Josh Clark (@globalmoxie).  These notes are very raw even though some additional phrasing and context have been applied to such below.

  • Using Mice and Pointers are prosthetics that have helped us interact with a computer.
  • As screen sizes increase, traditional controls feel cramped in large touch screens since their relative positions traditionally do not scale. (Responsive design can sometimes address this issue but not always and shouldn’t be considered the only way).
  • Fitts’s Law may apply greater to touch screens due to the grander of gesture over that of just a mouse.
  • “Let People Be Lazy”
    • Pinball Machines are button-based mechanical devices – how would it be without the use of buttons?
    • Answer – if a pinball’s glass is removed, grabbing a ball and attempting to throw/roll it towards the target becomes the primary action (know from person experience while growing up). 
  • How can we more effectively use visual shortcuts and hints?
  • Keep Buttons but provide gestures as a shortcut (not a replacement)
  • “Big Screens require Big Gestures” – both in natural action and in possibilities.
  • Buttons originated in mechanical, clockwork devices – thinking of a webpage as a clockwork automation can lead to some additional interesting metaphors.
  • Observation: iPad screenshots seem to almost always be in landscape orientation
  • Twitter app for iPad (iOS5) has gesture navigation features that the iPhone app doesn’t have. – Odd inconsistency
  • IKEA Fluid iPad App Concept – http://bit.ly/ikeatouch
  • Random Though: How could a list or card stack design be adjusted to be more fluid and touch focused?
  • Due to its size, the iPad is more prone to dominant hand issues where as the iPhone has less of an issue.
  • Always review a device’s specific User Interface Guidelines when creating apps for platforms.  Still reference such for websites that specifically target those devices to be aware of possible expectations and clashes.
  • Responsive and Adaptive web design is not always the best option for all forms of content. There is no true silver bullet for web design and user testing needs to be considered.
  • Web forms for mobile should be easy via shortcuts, JavaScript, and minimizing typing.
  • Even though people love to do text messaging, doesn’t mean they enjoy going from form field to form field.
  • Random Thought: Wonder how many people use the “Previous/Next” buttons on iOS keyboards when typing in a form.
  • Book Reference – Living with Complexity (By Donald Norman)
  • Interface Conventions are Cultural References
  • Don’t use up front instructions, no one reads them.
  • Interfaces should work naturally (e.g. if you use a book metaphor, people will try to turn the page)
  • iOS5 Contacts and Calendar use a book metaphor and don’t allow page turning.
  • Be careful when mixing design metaphors as the interfaces become more natural.
  • Toddlers are great examples of beta testing touch and natural user interfaces since they don’t have to unlearn years of point and click.  They also learn and try different interactions to get things to work.
  • Games are great examples for teaching users different interface trends (via coaching, leveling up, and powering up)
  • If you coach/guide someone into a gesture – hide the tip after the first or second time to ensure it doesn’t turn into noise.
  • Tip: If something scrolls off screen, animate it scrolling into the default position to help subtly show that it scrolls to the user.
  • Don’t be afraid to explore extremes – Uzu (iPad app) has functions for up to 10 finger gestures!
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