Sunday, March 27, 2011

What's new with your User Experience?

I was sitting with some colleagues at the pub the other night, talking about one of my favorite subjects - Apple computer's highly innovate nature.  One person reflected that the one thing that made the iPhone successful was the touch screen.  That other devices had used a touch screen, but had not gotten in quite right.  Other devices that were using touch screens were clunky to use. He had apparently used several different devices with touch interfaces.  A benefit of the company he works for that has a loner program (want to try their software on a mobile device - borrow it for a few weeks).  I chatted with the person that runs the program, they have all the new toys and every week its like Christmas morning opening new packages.  What a brilliant program.

Yes, I'd have to agree that one of the keys to the iPhone's success is the new user experience it allows.  Along with the wonderful opportunity for people (mere babes) to use a computer with absolutely no instruction at all.  Countless people tell stories of their 2 and 3 year-olds using iPhones to navigate to their favorite applications.

I remember when Apple introduced the paradigm shifting mouse in 1984.  I taught a summer school program where 6th & 7th graders could learn to program (BASIC) with the Apple II Plus computer.  One half of the first day was teaching students to use the mouse.  The kids got it much quicker than the older teachers.  However I still spent hours teaching the user interface techniques of a mouse.  Can you imagine teaching someone the techniques of mousing?  Break it down - learn to point, to click, the timing of a double click, the advanced drag and drop.  With a touch interface this is needless.  We have been using a finger to point and touch since we've been 6 months old - it is natural.

I gave my mother a used first generation iPhone, no manual, no instructions, just sent it via mail in a box.  Now my Dad said she's just as bad as the young kids, constantly on the internet, reading, watching TV, multitasking and googling things in real time.  She's a Digital Immigrant.

My father never wanted to use a computer.  He said he would use one when he could just talk to it and it would type his reports and papers as well as his secretary.  Yes he worked back in the days when even middle managers had secretaries and typing pools. This didn't keep him from enrolling me into the 9th grade typing class.  I was one of only two boys in a 40 girl class for beginning typing.

My father foresaw the power of typing and of computers.  I was in typing class because he had so much stress working on his master's dissertation and computer classes he had to take in the 1970s.  In 1976 he was sure typing would be a skill I would need in life.  In 1979 he brought home an Apple II computer to see if it would interest my brother and me.  It did, I learned BASIC programming.  Then he bought the first personal computers (Apple II Plus) for students in the Stanley county school systems.

So learning new computer user interface has been in my family for years.  First user interface we learned, typing (1976), then mousing (1984), then touch interfaces (2007) with the iOS products, next....  voice.  My father's vision is happening.  My father-in-law uses Naunce's Naturally Speaking on the Mac to write proposals and email today.  My wife uses Naunce's Dragon in preference to typing. In the near future this may become the primary user interface.

This change in user interface will require changing your software application.  How close to the bleeding edge is your software application interface?  Are you planning for the future?  My family is willing to test it for you.  We are experts, including the 2 year old niece.
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