Past Entry of Zippy's Telecom Blog


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November 5, 2009

The Great User Interface Hunt

When it comes to the possible acceptance of any new telecom technology or product, Yours Truly has always said that it must be economical (saves the company money), be flexible, have a lot of great features, be scalable and easy to use. Sometimes just being incredibly “easy to use” can overshadow other characteristics of a product, as in the case of the Apple iPhone.

At the moment we’re all waiting for tomorrow’s official launch of both the Droid from Motorola, and of course the $99 HTC Droid Eris for Verizon Wireless Communications, which combines the Google Android platform with “HTC Sense” described as “a user experience from HTC that makes it easy for customers to stay close to one another and create an individualized mobile experience tailored specifically to their needs. The Droid Eris by HTC also organizes interactions by person, so that you can access text messages, emails, phone calls, Flickr streams and Facebook updates from a single contact card.

As Yours Truly works around the clock on additional goodies for this website, such as a Buyer’s Guide and expert system designed to help in the selection of products, concerns over developing a suitable (dare I say perfect) user interface loom large. I’ve been tinkering around with various UIs over the past few weeks, having been interested in man-machine communication for many years. (By coincidence, when I was MIS director at the law firm Squadron, Ellenoff, I used to work with a fellow named Travis, the brother of one of the former heads of the MIT Media Lab, which was founded by MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte and former MIT President Jerome Wiesner, now deceased.)

The construction methods for desktop software and online applications are rapidly converging, and users will soon have to check to see if a browser is active to determine whether the application they’re running is emanating from the cloud or is operating on a local machine. As I struggle with the UI for this site, the usual mantras keep echoing in my miond: Don’t make the interface too busy—the overall “density” of the screen should not exceed 40 percent, with the local density of screen components not to exceed about 60 percent. The interface should be intuitive, with a minimum of directions and lots of groupings of logically-associated items via boxes, lines, panels, and so forth. Even then, build in a roll-back to the previous state because expect users are going to make mistakes no matter what.

As bandwidth and computing power soars and drops in price, the user interface will become the biggest selling point of any smartphone—or any other device or application, for that matter.


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