Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thoughts on mobile device user interface designs

There are several user interface elements that I hate to see on mobile devices, I simply hate them with a passion because they are a pain to use.

  1. A "Start menu" should not be on anything, not just mobile devices
    Microsoft used to put a start menu on everything. The idea is that everything is in one place, thus everything is easier to find. Nope, that idea does not fly. Let's say you want everything in your home to be easy to find, so you throw your cups, toothbrushes, pens, shoes, towels, pots, pans and underwear all in the same box. Right, enjoy digging through that huge box everytime you need something. To Fix this, Microsoft came up with the idea of folders in folders. Back to the "everything in one box" analogy, you put boxes within boxes to categorize your stuff, each box only has a label that tells you a vague category. So, to get a toothbrush, you open box after box after box, then, OOPS, wrong box... Close all the boxes and start again, arrg, messy night mare.
    That's why I hate Windows mobile, good thing they are trashing it.
  2. Widgets are designed to waste screen space
    Android & Nokia's Symbian are mainly Widget platforms. Widgets are tiny apps that show snippets of info in a eye candy package. But mobile devices have tiny screens. Do you want a Widget that shows a huge "CNN" logo next to a box so small that you can only see two words of the headlines at a time? Or do you want the actual headlines?
    Nokia's Widgets are much worse offenders then Android's. Nokia took the great and mighty EPOC OS and turned it into the abomination that is Symbian. Now they see a threat from the new generation of platforms, what do they do? Bring out Symbian^3, ^4, ^5... ad infinitum, all of them are more of the same widget crap. Big FAIL.
  3. A bar of "dynamic keys" under the screen
    Remember Nokia invented on phones the concept of a bar of text on the bottom of the screen that tells you what the top most two buttons do? That was a huge waste of screen. They are still keeping that crap on touchscreen UIs. With touchscreens, the beauty is that you can put buttons anywhere on the screen that would make sense to the user, and only show them when needed. Why do I always need the "OK" and "cancel" buttons on the bottom of the screen?
Yup, this is all to vent on Nokia's new N8 phone with Symbian^3 OS. It's great hardware with rubbish software.

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