Yesterday’s iPad presentation gave us another lesson on how to solve interaction “puzzles”.
Everyone was wondering how Apple would position the home button on a device that doesn’t have the “right” orientation. Would it be on the back? Would there be 2 buttons for symmetry?
Keyboard was the main puzzle as in landscape mode you can’t reach the center of the screen with your thumbs while holding the device. Would you split the keyboard in two and group the keys around corners like Microsoft Origami? Or maybe some other way?
Also how do you position the device on the table or on the laps? Some kind of universal kickstand?
No. With an unbeatable elegancy Apple solved all those issues by taking “there’s nothing to solve” approach.
It’s the same home button as in the iPhone. You’ll be able to find it in any orientation. Don’t over-complicate things. It’s the same keyboard. Want to type in landscape mode? Rest the device against something and type. Don’t over-complicate things. Want to place it on table in standing position? Buy an accessory. We are not going to disfigure our sleek aluminum back with some kickstand.
A lot of phone standard features that everyone so thoroughly copies one from another should be re-thought. Take for example the standard calendar. After the first month of enthusiastic feature exploration the calendar is forgotten. Most of Nokia phones I saw had “No calendar entries for today” on the main screen. Why? Simply put, it’s too complex.
Maybe for a business phone it’s ok to enter start/end time, repeat pattern, alert signal, alert timing etc for every entry, but for a consumer device this is abysmal. Hint: calendar should be a simple mix of to-do list, notes and reminders: you select a date and type some text, that’s it. Alerting would be done automatically. Exact event time, duration, repeat etc are secondary and added by user only if are making sense. This way the calendar will be actually used and won't be just a checkmark on a feature list.
The concept of focusing on the essential phone functions for Sony Ericsson Pureness is really interesting in times when everyone tries to create the best all-in-one device. I see a trend of carrying a “simple” long lasting phone as a primary voice talk device with a one-day-battery life multimedia/social/internet device that can make calls as a second.
The same need for a quality talk/text device seems to be behind the RIM current success. Classic BlackBerries popularity shows that not everyone needs thousands of apps, multimedia, desktop-class browser etc - a pocket computer basically, but what they really care about is top-notch phone and messaging functions.
The company which will manage to redefine the “simple talk/text phone” in terms of experience (as the iPhone redefined the smartphone genre) will hit the spot.
Working closely with developers may result in some kind of interaction designer stockholm syndrome - you begin to show signs of loyalty to the twisted back-end/machine logic instead of being the users advocate. You start thinking along some established "rails" instead of thinking out-of-the-box. If that happens, a good design examples therapy is needed fast.