All About Symbian - Nokia (S60) and Sony Ericsson (UIQ) smartphones unwrapped

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Old 25-07-2007, 02:30 PM
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Ewan Ewan is offline
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Don't Forget... UI is Pretty Much Everything

A timely reminder from Scottish Games Developers Black Company Studios about how important the UI is on both a mobile device and in applications . It's an area that is getting more and more attention in the mobile market, partly because with the hardware specs of mobile phones becoming similar by the day, how people interact is becoming a major selling point.

Read on in the full article.

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Old 25-07-2007, 03:01 PM
neilhoskins neilhoskins is offline
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Well, maybe next time something like the N95 comes out with its really nice-looking "media" menu, reviewers and early adopters shouldn't go around hardly mentioning it and giving the impression: "don't use it, it's slow, the media key serves no useful function, it's just a gimmick", and so on.

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Old 25-07-2007, 03:12 PM
krisse krisse is offline
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The trouble is, yes, most people only use 10 or 20 apps, but they are unlikely to be the same 10 or 20 for everyone. If you trim a few apps away, a few people will complain, and the more you trim away the more people will feel their phone is being crippled. We've seen that with the iPhone, people praised the interface for simplicity but complained that it lacked important features. If Apple had included all the functionality of S60, the iPhone might not have seemed so easy to use.

What's needed is a way to keep all those 60 or more apps, but only display the 10 or 20 that each person actually uses. In other words, have a simple menu at the front which would be the equivalent of the dashboard of a car, and then the complex but fully-loaded menu as the equivalent of the engine. Ordinary users can stick to the dashboard, while power users could dip into all the options and features to tune them to their liking.

Desktop computer OSes such as Windows have been doing this for over ten years now, displaying automatic shortcuts to the most commonly used files and apps through the Start menu or equivalent. This same system ought to be available on the standby screen of all phones.

The standby screen is actually quite useful if you know how to customise it, but that customisation option is buried a bit too deeply in the settings menus so most people never seem to find it. Consequently, most people still have to go into the main menu screen.

If the choice of icons in active standby was automated and constantly updated in an intelligent way, the standby screen would turn into what would effectively be the main menu for most people, as it would have those 10 or 20 apps which they do use regularly.


"even when you get to the right dialog it's not even sorted in alphabetical order;"

Which language though? Alphabetical order would mean having icons in completely different orders in different languages. That could make testing a UI for speed and ease of use a bit of a nightmare...


"Well, maybe next time something like the N95 comes out with its really nice-looking "media" menu, reviewers and early adopters shouldn't go around hardly mentioning it and giving the impression: "don't use it, it's slow, the media key serves no useful function, it's just a gimmick", and so on."

I agree, people can't have it both ways. They can't simultaneously have a small number of essential icons and a full-on every-option-displayed menu. The "carousel" menu ought to be seen as a set of shortcuts, which is what it is. It's no worse than the bookmarks of a web browser.
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Last edited by krisse; 25-07-2007 at 03:20 PM.
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Old 25-07-2007, 03:21 PM
neilhoskins neilhoskins is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krisse View Post
What's needed is a way to have all those 60 or more apps, but only display the 10 or 20 that each person actually uses. In other words, have a simple menu at the front which would be the equivalent of the dashboard of a car, and then the complex but fully-loaded menu as the equivalent of the engine. Ordinary users can stick to the dashboard, while power users could dip into all the options and features to tune them to their liking.

Desktop computer OSes such as Windows have been doing this for over ten years now,
When XP and Office started doing that it was driving me crazy until I learned how to override it. Yes, the choice has to be there for those of us who want all 60 icons and expect them to be where we last left them.

My point is, that when they do come up with something simple and whizzy, "we" (meaning the reviewers, bloggers, forum participants, and early adopters) have a terrible tendency to slag it off.

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Old 26-07-2007, 12:21 AM
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The UI _is_ pretty much everything

The UI's purpose is to assist the user in getting stuff done, and to provide information back without getting in the way.

1. neilhoskins mentions the media-key, although I disagree with using this as an example of a 'good' ui decision. I feel that the media key is inconsistent with the ui of the rest of the phone, it _IS_ slow, cannot be easily remapped to something more useful (ie. jump straight to an app or action, not a menu of other apps) and, most frustrating for me, one of it's shortcuts ('down') is taken up by configuring the options themselves. (Why waste one of the shortcuts on such a task? Include it under Options, as is the norm for Symbian apps and let me configure 'down' to a useful app or task.)

2. I think it unlikely that even the most advanced users (ie. we on AAS!) need the 60 or so separate apps currently on a new Nokia - there is a lot of repetition (WAP and web browser for example) and inconsistency (settings for everything sprinkled all over the place). You could probably whittle this down to 20 individual apps without _any_ loss of functionality, but with dramatic improvements in usability. Good on Nokia for starting this process in SP1 and SP2, but hopefully they will be a bit more ruthless with which functions deserve their own app and icon ('About' app anyone?).

3. The suggestion of using a dynamic menu on the active standby screen, automatically updating as apps are used (ala. Windows), would probably make using the device harder rather than easier. The UI would become less predictable for the user - using an active standby shortcut would require a quick search of the options to see if the desired one is available.

It seems that Nokia is _trying_ to address the usability and efficiency issue, but has so far only accomplished a lot of half-thought-through solutions. We have icon-grid-menus mapped to the keypad (excellent!), a little used GoTo app (huh?!), the evolving active standby screen with shortcuts, the apps key ala. task manager and now the heavy-on-eye-candy-light-on-usability media key. They're all there to make 'getting stuff done' easier, but the existance of so many different (and flawed) methods creates a usability mess.

Krisse & Neal: great comments - too often usability/UI issues are a poor-cousin to a phone's feature list. Perhaps the feature-anemic iphone will help to shift the focus.

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Old 26-07-2007, 05:59 AM
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Sergey Zak Sergey Zak is offline
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djol - I do agree on everything you say.
Too many ways seems to be "the Nokia way".
It would be useful if they "converged themselves" 1st.
But it also increases accessibility, and also tries to cater well to different categories of users - those who only use hip new features are glad to use the new MM (carousel) menu. S60 is very flexible, but unnecessarily complex.
In my opinion, UIQ is a much better contender to catch up with iPhone, also having analogue control by the way, and the best handwriting system out there.
 

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