Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 19th Dec 2011 20:11 UTC
Google Once upon a time, in a land, far, far away, there were two mobile operating systems. One of them was designed for mobile from the ground up; the other was trying really hard to copy its older, desktop brother. One was limited in functionality, inflexible and lacked multitasking, but was very efficient, fast, and easy to use. The other had everything and the kitchen sink, was very flexible and could multitask, but had a steep learning curve, was inconsistent, and not particularly pretty.
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RE: Comment by frderi
by Neolander on Wed 21st Dec 2011 11:09 UTC in reply to "Comment by frderi"
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I happen to have at hand a nice book about usability in software UIs which I find very well-written. In its argumentation, it exposes 12 pillars of software usability :

1/Architecture (Content is logically hierarchized in a way that makes it easy to find)

2/Visual organization (Every piece of UI is designed in a way that makes it easy to understand, noticeably by avoiding information overflow without hiding stuff in obscure corners. Information hierarchy plays a big role there)

3/Coherence (The UI behaves in a consistent way)

4/Conventions (The UI is consistent with other UIs that the users are familiar with)

5/Information (The UI informs the user about what's going on, at the right moment, and gives feedback to user action)

6/Comprehension (Words and symbols have a clear meaning, in particular icons are not used to replace words except when their meaning is perfectly unambiguous to all users)

7/Assistance (The UI helps the user at its task and guides him/her, noticeably by using affordant elements at the right place)

8/Error management (The UI allows the user to make mistakes, actively tries to prevent them, and helps correcting them)

9/Speed (Tasks are performed as fast as possible, especially when they are common, with minimal redundancy)

10/Freedom (The user must, under any circumstance, stay in control)

11/Accessibility (The UI can be used by all target users, including if they have bad sight, Parkinson disease, or whatever)

12/Satisfaction (In the end, users are happy and feel that it was a pleasant experience)

For your information, skeumorphic UIs on cellphone-sized touchscreens fail at

-Visual organization (Why use clearly labeled and visible controls when you can use obscure gestures instead ?)

-Coherence (Need to explain ?)

-Conventions (Because in the end, your touchscreen remains a flat surface that does not behave like any other real-world object, except maybe sheets of paper. As a developer, attempting to mimick real world objects on a touchscreen is simply cutting yourself from the well-established PC usage conventions and forcing users to learn new UI conventions *once again*, except this time it's one new UI convention per application)

-Information (Modern cellphones are already bad at this due to the limitations of touchscreen hardware, combined with a tendency to manufacture them in a very small form factor. Attempting to mimick large objects on such a small screen is only a way to further reduce the allowed information density)

-Comprehension (Mostly a limitation of touchscreens rather than skeumorphic design, but since touchscreens offer no form of "hover" feedback and mobile phone screens are way too small, developers often resort to obscure icons in order to shoehorn their UIs in small form factors)

-Error management (When you try to mimick real-world objects, you have to ditch most of the WIMP error feedback mechanisms, without being able to use real world objects' ones because they are strongly related to their three dimensional shape)

-Speed (Software UIs can offer physically impossible workflows that are much faster than anything real-world objects can do. If you want to mimick the physical world, you have to lose this asset, without losing the intrinsically slow interaction of human beings with touchscreens)

-Accessibility (Give an touchscreen to your old grandpa who has got Parkinson, and see how well he fares with these small interfaces without any haptic feedback. Not a problem with computer mices, which are relative pointers whose sensitivity can be reduced at will)

I believe that most of this still holds for tablets, although some problems related to the small screen sizes of cellphones are lifted.

Edited 2011-12-21 11:11 UTC

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