Carol Barnum's new book Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set... Test is excellent. You should check it out if you do usability testing or practice any kind of user-centered design process.
I think this is a first for PC monitors or TVs. It could help with the fingerprint problem and with making frequent gestures quicker to do. From Sony's press release:
Unique to the L Series, the multi-touch screen features technology which extends the touchable area of the screen to the LCD bezel. This technology provides simple access to everyday shortcuts enabling users to close windows, flip through web pages quickly and zoom by touching the black glass sections along the edge of the PC.
Microsoft announced their Touch Mouse this week. It's a mouse with a capacitive sensing surface to allow gestures for scrolling, pinching, and manipulating windows.
I'm really looking forward to trying this. Microsoft Research has been experimenting with prototypes for multitouch mice for quite some time (see links below) and it'll be interesting to see what they've come up with. I've used Apple's multitouch mouse (Magic Mouse) and found it quite uncomfortable -- it didn't feel like a good physical fit for my hand and the gestures (except for scrolling) felt awkward. Their Magic Trackpad is much more pleasant to use.
- Microsoft Touch Mouse product page
- A post at the Microsoft hardware blog: You Can Touch This -- By Hrvoje Benko, Microsoft Research
- Mouse 2.0 (Microsoft Research Applied Sciences Group)
- Engadget hands-on review and interview with Hrvoje Benko from Microsoft Research
Papers from the ACM ITS 2010 conference are available online now: Technical Program. The conference is taking place this week in Germany.
Barbara Ballard and her team put on a great conference this past week in Chicago. I learned much from the workshops and presentations.
Here are slides from my presentation: Evaluating Touch Gesture Usability - D4M 2010 (Slideshare).
To balance out my previous post, here's an example of an iPhone app that's all about gestures and that does a good job: FlickTunes is one of many apps that let you control your music with gestures, which makes for a slightly safer experience while you're driving.
The app lets you swipe left/right for forward/backward, up/down for play/pause. There's a ton of other options (perhaps a few too many) for two- and three-finger gestures and for adjusting the display and gesture sensitivity. In my experience the gestures have been very reliable and responsive.
My only complaint so far is that there seems to be a bug that causes it
to turn off shuffle occasionally, and apparently randomly. This happens
to me in iTunes too so maybe it's an Apple bug.
I learned of FlickTunes from Suzanne Ginsburg's excellent Designing the iPhone User Experience.
With apologies to this app's developer for a harsh critique of what's obviously meant to be a throwaway novelty app, here is the simplest example I've seen of mistakes made when using gestures in an iPhone app.
RPS Gestures (iTunes link) is a "gesture-based version of the classic" Rock Paper Scissors, a.k.a. Rochambeau. This version of the game lets you play paper by swiping, rock by tapping, and scissors by pinching.
Here is the interface. Can you spot a problem?
What's novel about this app compared to the 100's of other RPS apps (yes, there are that many) is that you have to make your play using gestures -- slide for paper, tap for rock, pinch for scissors. But that's the only way to do it. If you mistakenly tap on the nice big icon for paper you don't get paper, you get rock. This reviewer sums it up eloquently:
As any good UX'er should do, I confirmed this issue with a totally (im)precise 1-minute usability study. I found that 100% of users shown this game for the first time, without having read the app store description, tapped on the icons rather than doing the gestures (sample-size = 1).
Some lessons here, about this issue and others with the app:
- Don't give misleading cues. (Don't make the icons look so darn tappable; put the descriptions in a list or something and make the words "slide," "tap," and "pinch" more prominent.)
- Don't make gestures the only way to perform actions. Many users just won't know to use them or will have difficulty. An exception is a creative novelty app like this, which is all about gestures. That's fine as long as you pay attention to these other details.
- Give good feedback and if you're going to ask people to do the extra work of gestures, give them some sort of reward or eye candy that makes it fun. This app could give animated feedback of the gestures as you're doing them. Instead it doesn't show you any feedback until you complete a gesture.
- Give people plenty of space to do the gestures. It's hard to do a pinch inside that blue square, which is what it looks you have to do (even though the app actually lets you do the gesture over the whole screen).
- Make sure your gesture recognition is rock-solid (pardon the pun). I sometimes get paper in this app when I try for scissors.
Okay, enough harshing on this poor app.
Via Google I also stumbled upon this fascinating site by independent game developer David Lovelace: RPS-101. It's a 101-gesture version of RPS -- "The most terrifyingly complex game ever." I look forward to the iPhone version!