24 May 2006

Mobile devices: smaller, smarter and still usable?

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Smarter mobile devices
“We live in a time when technological advances have permitted developers to create devices that were unheard of just a few years ago,” writes Robert Kaplan of Usernomics in Portable Design. But, he asks, “are these devices really usable? Can typical users operate these devices easily, and are they willing to learn how to operate them?”

“Techno-users are only tangentially interested in technology and more focused on what a device can do for them. They are not interested in long learning curves and spending time deciphering various features of a device. Rather, they are casual users of technology whose focus is on the task at hand rather than the technology that enables it.”

“We are at a point where technology has run into conflict with usability. As ever-smaller devices are created, a point is reached where the controls and displays become too small for easy operation. What’s worse, as multifunction devices increase in their functionality, they also increase in complexity. And we are now able to put even more features into smaller devices. The limit to packing more features and functions into smaller devices is the customers’ tolerance for learning how to operate these complex devices.”

Kaplan explains that “there are two primary ways to create a usable and positive user experience in the face of growing features and functions. The first is to offer more than one version of the same product. The second way to enhance the usability of multifunction devices and create a positive user experience is to focus on the user interface design.”

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