Saturday, 19 July 2008

Don't Click, Won't Click

User experience is a discipline that has come to the forefront of online in recent years. One popular online focused magazine has even adopted the mantra "User Experience is King" for the year.

When people think of usability, they often refer to how a website works, the information architecture, the design and navigation elements and its accessibility.

Usability is very much at the heart of an e-commerce website, it's main intention being to maximise conversion via continual optimisation based on meaningful testing and analysis.

The main principles of best practice usability are still restricted by the manner in which we use our computers; the limitations of a mouse and keyboard that are used to navigate through the world wide web.

This is all about to change...


Don't Click It is an experiment that challenges the traditional point and click method of web navigation by demonstrating a browsing experience without the requirement to click the mouse or keypad. So without the requirement to click, what use are of mouse buttons?
In reality the mouse itself has limited life remaining.

Microsoft Surface was one of the first developments into touch screen technology, offering a coffee table interface where multiple users could drag and drop files accordingly. As with many other Microsoft innovations, the product lost it's way and could be accused of being launched without a market in mind.

There have been other attempts but it is the success of the iPhone and iPod touch that has really pioneered the way for the touch revolution. A number of mobile producers are already following Apple down this route, quickly releasing products with similar touch screen technology.

HP have been the first to introduce this technology to the home computer with the HP TouchSmart PC, that recently launched in America. Other manufacturers are developing similar products making it realistic to expect touch technology to become an option for those looking to purchase a PC within the next two years.

So what's next?

For the film Minority Report,
Steven Spielberg took advice from some of the worlds most renowned futurologists about how technology will evolve in the next fifty years. Some of these predictions are already starting to become a reality.
The scene in which Tom Cruise navigates through various files using electronic gloves demonstrates functionality that is not too dissimilar a Wii remote. The movement is detected and translated into an on screen action.

The impact on traditional web usability will be huge. Touching and pointing your way through a website promises to be a much simpler and more fulfilling experience than point and click navigation. There will be significant opportunities to engage visitors and encourage further interaction with websites and brands.

These rapid improvements to technology will not come without obstacles, the most significant being accessibility. This should regarded as part of the greatest challenge, to create an improved web experience for everyone.

I expect touch and movement detection technology to be a form a major part of the future of web browsing, fundamentally changing the principles of usability as we know them. I wonder what Jacob thinks.

2 comments:

Al Stevens said...

The whole notion of touch is far more intuitive than that of using a mouse.

That said I am sure a many of the lessons already learned will be valid in a 'touch and tap' world. A link still needs a 'tap' affordance in the same way a link needs a 'click' affordance.

In terms of User Experience this could mark the beginning of an incredibly exciting time where User Experience evolves closer into Experience Design (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experience_design) which deals with usability on a far broader level. An evolution that will see even the term 'user' as unacceptable in the realms of people centred design

DJ said...

Richard
The notion that "usability" is not equal to the challenges of new types of input device is incorrect.

At it's heart, usability can only be properly measured if a service has some *utility* - i.e. it has some purpose and relevant function to the person who comes into contact with it.

This is the part that people new to "usability" often leave out. Websites and any other device need to be structured and designed around real people's actual context and needs in the real world first and foremost.

The method and style of interaction inherent from there on in are "simply" logistical issues often constrained/defined by technology, cost and the cognitive and motor abilities of the person involved.

Even Jakob would agree with that. In fact he came up with the idea in 1996!
http://www.useit.com/papers/anti-mac.html

Cheers
DJ