Fluid
Stu Card, manager of the user interface group at the famed Palo Alto Research Center and Ted Selker of MIT’s Media Lab discussed human interfaces for mobile computers at the recent Sofcon 2008, and just how differently engineers have to treat these devices than their older PC brothers.

PCs weren’t necessarily designed for end users in the early days. They were designed for developers to create applications, or corporations to make their workers more productive. But mobile computers, whether they are smartphones, mobile Internet devices, or whatever, are fundamentally different; they’re with us at all times and are used on the go, not as stationary, sedentary terminals. And they are used as social devices, whether that’s planning a get-together with friends, taking pictures at the party, or as the ultimate arbiter of extremely important barroom arguments such as who had the most home runs for the 1993 New York Mets (Bobby Bonilla).

Card focused on the look and feel of the software that accompanies smartphones. He used Apple’s iPhone as his example, and examined how the iPhone was designed according to four different human factors: social, rational, cognitive, and biological. [...]

“Mobile computing is much more intimately tied to a user’s life. You need to design simultaneously on at least four levels, and functional design is not the only requirement,” Card said.

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