The Affordances of Mobile Devices

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Lecture on January 29th, 2008




Optional Reading

Scott Crawford - Jan 26, 2008 09:48:22 pm

From Jones and Marsden's chapter 1, I found the proposal for varied modes of interaction with your mobile device (not only visual, but also by sound, touch, or even scent) to be quite fascinating. One note that comes to my mind, however, is that though the additional modes can be taken advantage of extensively (i.e. the human senses they would work with are, on their own, quite acute), the hardware for such interfacing - more than the primitive examples that don't offer a high resolution of interaction - is not here yet, though in principle they could add great layers to the UI. In Moggridge's chapter 3, I was already reminded of the IDEO article (before the company's name was brought up) by: "The more “illogical” your approach is, the less likely it is that it will blindly follow the conventional wisdom, and hence the more likely it becomes that you will be able to differentiate and create a successful product relative to your competition." The similarity being that both methods for addressing a design problem is to go in with as open of a mind as possible, so open, in fact, as to actually encourage the 'crazy' ideas in the hopes of finding gold somewhere along the line.

Khoa Phung - Jan 27, 2008 02:10:26 pm

Mobile Interaction Design by Jones and Marsden caught my attention when I read in 1.2.2 that they have a strong feeling that mobile devices will follow the appliance-oriented system; that is one mobile device for each specific task. As for me, I strongly believe that one device for all purposes makes much more sense concerning mobility as we can see that all devices share a common interface; that is a screen. Cellphones with their touch screen for dialing, Sony book reader with the screen to read books, PDA that use a screen to display information, notepads, calculators, music players and much more. Therefore, it makes only sense to reuse the interface for different purposes and increase the overall functionality of just one mobile device, rather than to carry several devices.

Eric Cheung - Jan 27, 2008 03:55:20 pm

It's interesting to note that despite all the various interfaces mentioned in Jones and Marsden and the initial success of Graffiti mentioned in Moggridge, most smartphones now still come with the traditional QWERTY keyboard, which has been around for quite a while. Whereas Graffiti provided a means of differentiating the Palm Pilot from other PDA's, the Treo's method of input did not. Considering the Jones and Marsden book appears to have been written in 2006, I'm curious to as how many of the ideas will actually show up in products or if the interest in them has waned since then. It will be interesting to see, with the increased dependence on touchscreens, if any of the haptic interfaces Jones and Marsden mention actually get implemented.

The trend toward Swiss Army Knife do-everything devices mentioned in Jones and Marsden is evidenced in the Moggridge chapter. They first start out with a digital organizer, then at Handspring, they add an expansion slot for more features, and then finally transition to a smart phone that has many features built in.

Ilya Landa - Jan 27, 2008 06:03:47 pm

I also find the proposed system of communication by between phones and users by movements very intriguing. Humans have a great sense of sight and a fairly developed sense of hearing, so most of the modern devices use these means to send information to users. But how much information exactly can be passed to users through movements and shakes of the phone? Despite the fact that humans are able to detect movements on their palms within 0.2 microns, is it feasible to train cell phone users to associate buzzing in their pockets with correct callers?

And a not on a Appliance-based vs. Swiss Army Knife discussion. iPhones are among the most expensive Swiss Army Knife around. And the only discussion about IPhones is around their usability. I’m still to hear a person complain that being able to browse the internet and make phone calls on the same device is counter productive.

Gerard Sunga - Jan 27, 2008 06:31:28 pm

One of the most interesting sections in the Jones and Marsden piece, was the 1.4.1, with the warnings they give to avoid poor designs showing there helpfulness in the real-world context. Moggridge's description of the development of the PalmPilot is a testament to this, with each warning being taken into consideration by the development team to bring about the product's success. They seem to have avoided "financial short-termism" and "techno-wizardry" by deciding on a pricepoint and optimizing hardware and software for it, which involved many sacrifices, such as a smaller monochrome display. Also, through exposing possible consumers to their various ideas early, they were able to avoid the "real bugs", such as adding e-mail access, when technology and the current culture proved it to be a superfluous feature.

One device in recent memory that did not follow this mindset was the Tapwave Zodiac, with its attempt to be an all-in-one device (both entertainment and business) failing miserably, eventually resulting in Tapwave's bankruptcy and the product's discontinuation due to poor market performance. This is is probably a result of a bad market plan (going up against Nintendo and Sony in the gaming handheld business is a bad idea) and poor set of features (i.e. poor multimedia options, despite it being a main selling point). However, the creation of "swiss-army knife" devices is becoming a trend, looking at the phones and devices today.

Benjamin Lau - Jan 27, 2008 08:02:07 pm

Haha, it's kind of cool how Figure 1.4 of Chapter 1 is a picture of Soda Hall. Anyways the "swiss army knife" debate struck a chord with me. I'm probably in the minority but I never use my cellphone for anything other than important calls, and nothing else. I don't play games on it, I don't treat it as an information device for storing miscellaneous things besides phone addresses. I agree with Richard Harper when he says that "mobile devices will be first and foremost about offering users the ability to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues, and that this will take precedence over technologies and applications that will offer information access and use." To me, that means that while internet access is certainly going to become an important feature, it will be more so for chat and e-mail than to surf the net in any serious fashion. Any information access I think will have to be for serious reasons, like finding out what roads have been closed down, when you're on a skiing trip. That will become the key stuff to support as far as UI is concerned.

Regarding Box 1.6 (Aromatic Output), I am not convinced that this is going to work. There were several next-gen game architectures being explored with the same premise and the ideas were shelved eventually. It's a great idea until you realize that all the other types of output (visual, auditory, touch) are powered through an electric battery. It's not the case for smell. The benefits of aromatic output are outweighted, I feel, by having to no longer only recharge a battery now but to also buy or refill a cartridge containing the "primaries" for smell. It's a nice idea and maybe it will take off one day but I don't see it being offered for mainstream users as a serious feature unless there is a significant advance in technology.

I liked Chapter 3 a lot. It's a really good case study. In particular I liked the reminder that a company should first and foremost always remember who the customer is-- it's not the people making the device. Rob Haitani recalled a particularly memorable moment when he was offering wireless e-mail many years ago, and the response was surprisingly lukewarm. I think this is an argument for not focusing too much on unnecessary features that have not yet matured, and instead focusing on refining the user experience with respect to the core functionality.

Jonathan Chow - Jan 27, 2008 08:32:32 pm

Mobile Interaction Design by Jones and Marsden and Designing Interactions by Moggridge agreed on one point that I believe we easily forget when trying to design and create new things. Jones and Marsden mention that the reason for poor design is tech over purpose and little user-based debugging. In Moggridge's piece, Rob Haitani mentions that "we're not the customers, we're the geeks." I think this characterizes the attitude that developers take in some cases. As a developer, it seems like an easy thing to do to just look at a new technology and say that it you should integrate it into your project. Yet, as the Palm people showed, sometimes it's just not the right moment to integrate everything into one product (like integrating a cell phone with a PDA). I believe that it takes a lot of work to fight the pull of adding more complex technology. The lessons from Palm about keeping things simple and never forgetting the end user serve as an excellent reminder for those of us who are geeks.

Chris Myers - Jan 28, 2008 12:13:45 am

Multifunction vs. appliance:

I would have to prefer the 'swiss army knife' approach for mobile devices. Why? Well, when I go out, I want to carry the least amount of stuff as possible. Portability is king. Additionally, some functions work better when coupled to a single device. For example: music player and phone. They are both audio devices, right? Why not combine them? Using two individual devices simultaneously can be cumbersome. If you are listening to your mp3 player loud with headphones, you could miss a call. And if you do happen to notice your call coming in, you have to first remove the headphones, pause the audio, then answer the call. When these functions are on a single device, an incoming call will interrupt the current song and continue automatically when the call is completed.

Reasons for poor design:

"An overwhelming emphasis on technology over purpose." - (1.4.1, Jones and Marsden)

This is my biggest pet peeve when it comes to features. Often a company will be so adamant on hyping a specific new feature that they forget that it really has no use. Although more recently I've noticed that it seems to be more of an emphasis on 'marketing' over purpose. Many of the primary/default functions in modern devices are 'shopping malls' and 'content downloads'.

Daniel Gallagher - Jan 28, 2008 01:37:15 am

I'll admit that Jones and Marsden's writing really opened my eyes to the possibilities of mobile devices. Like Ben Lau (from above) I've never been interested in using my phone for more than calls and texting, and actually find other applications cluttering the UI or mysterious bonus buttons on my keypad annoying. However, reading about research into using other human senses (especially touch) to interact with cell phones brought me to realize that the 'clutter' I have such aversion to is ENTIRELY based on my sense of sight. Auditory or tactile interaction with a mobile device now seem to me to be interesting ways to get around the clutter barrier and offer additional services without forcing them on traditional users. The quotes from Richard Harper on (10) also resonated with me and I'd be very interested to read more of his ideas on improving the most basic functions of mobile phones.

Moggridge's chapter on Palm's design success story was a really interesting read. The overriding concept that came through for me was that you can make big bucks following the KISS strategy. This does not seem surprising- everyone at least pays lip-service to the ideal of beautifully clean functionality. What I found unexpected was the level of resistance described in the chapter to simplicity, both from investors and Palm's designers. I love the description of Palm's triumph over Microsoft purely through design because it illustrates that aesthetic appeal is king. This seems true today outside just mobile devices, as with the success of many Apple products based on their appeal to people's desire for simplicity and basic utility in a pretty package (I'm thinking notebook computers and music players here, not sure about the iphone yet).

Glen Wong - Jan 28, 2008 11:44:46 am

I found the reading from Jones and Mardsden to be particularly intriguing. The article establishes a good foundation which is helpful to the mobile designer. I found the debate between appliance and swiss army knife to be intriguing as well as I often waver between the two sides in my preferences. After reading the article though, I think the swiss army knife approach makes more sense for mobile devices. I think the reason that we have often become disenchanted with our do-it-all mobile devices (and the article seems to stress this point too) is that they don't do the tasks they set out to do. Appliance type devices almost always do a better job. However, I think there is potential for a all-in-one device to do the same. I think the development of the PalmPilot from Moggridge is a good example of how a good all-in-one device can be achieved. Start with some core features and do them well. Don't just add features for the sake of adding them.

JessicaFitzgerald - Jan 28, 2008 03:11:41 pm

I thought it was interesting how Jones and Marsden made the comparison of appliance versus swiss army knife when talking about mobile devices. I think that there is some middle ground the device should achieve. It should not just perform one function flawlessly or twenty average functions but should perform a few key functions integral to the device well. This also ties into the idea of a user having too many mobile devices to perform all necessary functions. It seems to follow that simplicity is always the best solution.

In the Moggridge chapter I found it interesting how he said when you introduce new products you must introduce features which are similar to what users are used to. If you introduce something that is too different, then users will reject it. I also found it intriguing that even though there was the technology to combine mobile phones and PDAs it took a while for them to be combined because it was too early for users to be excited about it.

Zhou Li - Jan 28, 2008 03:20:33 pm

According to Jones and Marsden, the key factor in future mobile device development that would attract users towards more advanced applications and gadgets lays interaction design. I agree with that, because user interface gives people the "first impression" of the application. Just like meeting new people, the "first impression" is very important for users to decide whether they would use the application regularly. A great interface design can make an average application stand out, while a bad one can kill a great application in terms of functionalities. I think having an all-in-one packet size mobile device is still a good idea as long as all the functionalities it offers are well organized and easy to navigate to, because most people only use the basic features of the applications on the go, so there is no need for them to buy and carry specialized appliances around. Appliance like mobile devices still have a market for task specialized users, but a "swiss knife" like device is still useful for them and common consumers to handle tasks on the go. I would love to know who's calling by smell, but might get a headache if I receive too many calls. People now days have enough stress from this fast paced world, so application designers should more time and effort into developing reliable devices that reduce frustration instead of competing to be the first one on in store.

Jeff Hawkins' success story with Palm and Treo suggests that constraints posed by portable mobile devices have to be taken into consideration from the first step of design. Improving and making existing features easier to use can be more valuable than simply adding in extra features.

Michael So - Jan 28, 2008 02:53:48 pm

I think one of the significant points in the Mobile Interaction Design reading is what's the trick to developing successful future mobile user experiences. The answer is interaction design. The answer seems to mean that in order to be successful, you need to focus on designing an interface that would make people feel a real and direct connection to what they want. Ideas for interaction pointed out by the reading includes touch, smell, motion, voice, and gestures; these ideas seem to be just inspired by ways in how people interact in real life. However the idea of using smell as a way of interacting with a mobile device sounds like it wouldn't work. Where would you have to put the mobile device in order to smell the smells outputted from the device? Would the smells bother other people around you? What if the smells outputted are overwhelmed by the smells of your surroundings?

I like the design philosophy described in the Designing Interactions reading. I liked the simpleness and common sense of it. The analogy of how your desk is organized to how an interface should be organized was pretty intuitive and true. You want fast access to things you use the most frequently. The ones you use infrequently is alright to take an extra step to get to. Another thing I liked was how the makers of the palm pilot seem to feel that if a device does multiple things, they should be done well. Basically I think you call just call it quality over quantity. The story about how Microsoft was going to crush Palm by adding a bunch of features was illustrative of Jeff Hawkins's view. You can add numerous features to a device, but if it is of no real value to a user, then it doesn't really matter how many of those features you added.

Michelle Au - Jan 28, 2008 04:07:29 pm

The design guidelines discussed in Moggridge can be connected to the ideas of accomodating human capabilities and limitations in Jones and Marsden. While Moggridge's examples of reducing the number of steps to perform a task mainly involve reorganizing how information is displayed on the device, haptic and gestural interfaces can also be used to perform tasks in a simple manner with fewer steps. Jones and Marsden use the example of recording voice messages. Sensors detect when a user brings the PDA up to their head and the device begins recording. This behavior is more intuitive with human actions and also requires fewer steps than explicitly hitting a record button. In this situation, activating this feature also requires less user attention on the device. Instead of having to look at the device to press the record button, the user just has to bring the device to their head. While this is a small enhancement, the effect will be noticeable as a whole when these improvements are developed for more tasks. As haptic and gestural interface technology further develops, more common tasks on a device can be activated with fewer steps as hitting keys and buttons can be replaced with more intuitive movements.

Bo Niu - Jan 28, 2008 04:35:57 pm

In Mobile Interaction Design. Chapter 1, Jones and Marsden have presented many existing mobile device interfaces and input output methods. They have also stated that many of these complex interfaces are ignored by the users. I thought the problem they brought up was very important to mobile interaction design: should mobile device be highly specialized or all-in-one. My point of view is that it should be an all-in-one device with a central theme on the keyword mobile, so anything that should be done and must be done as the user travels around should be included. And it was interesting to see the development of palm pilot in Designing Interactions. Chapter 3, and how they changed their design based on user needs and feedbacks.

Benjamin Sussman - Jan 28, 2008 04:56:28 pm

While I can understand the drive to branch out and create new and unique user interfaces, I think that a lot of the examples presented in Mobile Interaction Design Chapter 1 require assumptions about both the mobile device user and the set and setting he or she is in. Take "peephole" for example. This innovative interface allows for a much bigger environment to be presented on a smaller screen without adding clutter, however it cannot be used if the user is in an enclosed space (who here hasn't texted from bed, or from a crowded bus) where he or she is unable to move the device around freely. Things like complex gesturing can be accidentally misinterpreted in situations where others are around (in mid-gesture a friend shouts from across the glade, this could cause a call to your ex-girlfriend) while aromatic output is very unrealistic in almost all settings. It can be shown simply that despite all their grand thinking, phones are still being made with keyboards and screens. (It should be noted however, that the iPhone has a gyroscope inside to keep track of its orientation which is in a similar direction to the peephole idea)

One thing that really got me thinking was the swiss army knife metaphor. My Razr is a horrible machine which I loathe, and it has a very high number of features (most of which I don't use) that it all does very poorly. It's much more important to remove features to ensure that the few remaining are as excellent as possible. However, I do not agree that it is even necessary to remove features completely in order to remove clutter, improve more important features and make the phone more usable. The iPhone is a great example of this. By simplifying the interface (anyone whose used the excessively complicated BlackBerry for the first time would probably agree) you can hide powerful functionality behind fewer buttons and options by intelligently partitioning the locations of features. No doubt a great way to find out what options/features are most used is through user testing, and once this information is discovered then menus can be shrunken, icons can disappear and an "advanced" option can appear where necessary to unlock some of the crazier features which power users may love to have.

Jeremy Syn - Jan 28, 2008 06:07:21 pm

It was interesting to learn that applications, such as the T9 system, created to satisfy the needs of disabled persons were expanded into the general market, becoming a popular tool for mobile users. This goes to show that creating products for a smaller customer group may not always be a bad thing. On the topic of aromatic output, personally I would not want to communicate with my device through odors. I think it would be quite difficult to get used to and I like to have solid forms of communication with my device.

In the Moggridge reading, I strongly agree that size, price, synchronization, and speed are four criteria that should definitely be considered in designing a portable organizer. People want organizers that are easy to carry around, affordable, and fast. Connecting your device to your home computer is also a highly desirable operation to make usage more comfortable.

Harendra Guturu - Jan 28, 2008 06:36:46 pm

The chapter from Mobile Interaction Design points of a few impacts of poor design. I would like to add that poor design of a novel application could lead to the application frustrating the users so much that they may discard the application from ever being used in a mobile phone. It may become blacklisted as something simply "too much" for a mobile device. Although techno-fixation may be one design problem that could cause the above problem, I disagree with with techno-fixation being a major design problem. I think as long as the difficult to use application stays out of the way of the regular functionality the application will gain more exposure and once the demand for that application is in place the usability will also increase as companies begin to compete for market share.

On another note, the swiss army approach is a good approach, but I think the mobile device has to move beyond just a swiss army knife if it is to replace other devices. For example, the current cameras are of lower image quality than full fledged cameras, if this persists a mobile device will never replace a seperate camera and then we are back to the appliance approach.

Cole Lodge - Jan 28, 2008 07:35:21 pm

Personally, I have never liked the idea of a "swiss-army knife" type of device. So far every device I have seen boasting of its all-in-oneness are lacking in features and usability; there are always tradeoffs. For example, I have yet to see a smart-phone that I was able to make calls from without it feeling awkward; being too bulky for a phone but too small to effectively send emails. Until I see a large innovation moving away from the bulky smart-phone design, I stick to using my phone for calling, my computer for e-mailing, and my I-pod for music. The closest thing I have seen to this would be the LG voyager although it is still lacking in web-browsing, it at least has a large fold open keyboard and is still small enough to use as a cell phone. With a improvements to its functionality, I can see this form factor being the design of all future smart phones.

Yang Wang - Jan 28, 2008 08:18:41 pm

I have never used functions beside call, texting and gaming on a cell phone. I am just not really appealed to the idea of “all-in-one” devices. However, a more capable cell phone does sound like an interesting idea. In this, user interface comes very importantly. Just like the “Swiss knife” idea, a simple pack up with different tools is just not appealing to common users. As pointed out in the readings, hard interface designs are often ignored by users. Sound and gesturing may sound interesting in first look, but in long term, the easiest and the most fault tolerating designs are going to survive. I would still pick keypad or touching any day over sound or gesture. The real problem is really how to make users get used to more complicated functions and still have same feelings to the basic functions. From what I have seen, most phones try to keep the calling function unchanged while add more complicated menu to the back. This is good in a sense of keep the old feeling up, however, it also discourage people from discovering what the phone really capable of. A more compound and highly customized menu style would be a better idea in my view.

Brian Taylor - Jan 28, 2008 08:50:53 pm

It is very interesting to note how the Moggridge reading discusses the organization and selection process of which buttons or menu items to display at the highest level. Although it would seem to make more intuitive sense to place related buttons and menu options together, sometimes this may not be the most effective and most importantly, popular, way to organize such options. I found particularly interesting the description of how the buttons were simply organized from most used to least used, and the top four to five were put on the Palm device at the highest level. Similar to code, we want to make the common case fast. With the rest of the buttons and menu commands, though, it would seem that a careful balance between logical placement and frequency of use must be reached, instead of merely using the frequency of use metric. Otherwise, one may find "cut, copy, and quit" together, where paste would have seemed to be a more logical and useful tool to have within the same menu (spatial) location. Despite the desire for simplicity, I personally feel that today's handheld electronics are gradually accelerating more and more towards the swiss army knife approach. For myself, I would much rather have a single phone-sized device that I can use as an MP3 player, a camera, a small web-browser, a chat client, a GPS, etc. We can already see the popularity of such devices that merged PalmPilots and cell phones and products like the iPhone. Ultimately, as stressed by Moggridge, though, everything that such a device does, must be done fast and well. When so much importance is placed on fast responses from our mobile device, if anything commonly used (and sometimes even uncommonly used) fails ever or often, the product will probably not succeed.

Hsiu-Fan Wang - Jan 28, 2008 09:54:10 pm

One of the points that I thought was mentioned obliquely but is critically important is the relatively high "barrier to entry" for mobile devices. Mobile devices have a much higher standard they must meet simply because bringing one with you is generally an active decision made daily whereas the purchase or use of traditional desktop software is usually a decision made once. In addition, mobile devices are viewed as personal devices and users are more attached to them than people are to their desktops or other "appliance" type devices. This can be seen in the accessory-like nature that cell phones have begun to take on, due to their use as communications devices. (This point is particularly well put on page 4 of Mobile Interaction Design where the text mentions the use of such devices in "poignant emergency last calls" and so forth)

Designing Interactions is I think the most applicable to user interface design as it relates to the class. There are mentions of the various trade offs that are required to make a truly humanized interface. The maxims that Haitani developed ("less is more" and others) are, I think, particularly elegant. Ultimately design must be focused on users and not what someone imagines a user wants. That continual focus, making products that are learnable, as well as *useful* creates products that people want to use, instead of products they force themselves to use.

David Jacobs - Jan 28, 2008 09:05:38 pm

I'm really intrigued by the idea of treating a small screen as a peephole into a larger virtual space. As a user moves around this magic screen, he or she can begin to associate places and objects in the physical world with the interface elements of the virtual. I think that the whole field of augmented reality (AR) offers a wealth of interesting and effective user experiences. Smart phones work nicely as a vehicle for AR interfaces because they are cheap. I'm actually really sad that the android API doesn't provide any motion sensing functionality (as far as I can tell). It would be awesome to try to create some AR interfaces for phones that are essentially wiimotes with screens.

Diane Ko - Jan 28, 2008 08:40:29 pm

Jones and Marsden mention the idea of mobile devices becoming more task specific rather than all-in-one devices and mentions the comparison to a swiss army knife that can do many things but not very well. When deciding what kind of phone I wanted to get after recently switching to a new phone service, the possibility of getting an iPhone came up. While phones such as the iPhone have many features that can be useful from time to time, the biggest problem I saw with it was that not only was it a heavy investment (much more expensive than other phones), but it also had so many features on it that I was more concerned with the idea of losing everything on it (I've had a phone stolen before). The other downside of having so many applications in one phone is that the amount of battery life used by certain applications almost makes the phone useless as an actual phone because the battery gets drained so quickly. An example of this is using a phone as an mp3 player where the battery life is greatly reduced on the phone. In this example, having a separate mp3 player would be much more efficient mostly because of the battery life of many of the current mp3 players geared specifically towards music playback and also because of the convenience of being able to listen to music while using the phone or when you can't use your phone (such as being on a plane).

Brandon Lewis - Jan 28, 2008 10:33:10 pm

I can attest to the personal attachment that mobile devices elicit from their owners. I've had a palm pilot and a cell phone. I loved my palm pilot, and I detest my phone. But my phone is indispensable, while my palm is a luxury. When I got my phone, I gave up on my palm because its primary function as a phone book was better served by the phone itself. My phone at least gets that part right. But while my phone can also keep track of appointments, and double as an alarm clock, it doesn't do a very good job at these.

I've written palm software, and I have to say that designing a functional interface that fits within the constraints is not easy. I wrote a simple accounting application which allowed users to keep a running balance of several accounts. I shared it with a few friends (not many people used palms then) and found that it was preferred over commercial alternatives because it was simple: the user just entered the amount of the transaction, and an optional description. The application didn't try to imitate double-entry accounting software. The focus was towards making it easy to keep track of less formal accounts, like how much your friends owe you for beer. (With diligence, I found I could also use it to avoid over-drafting my checking account).

The experience made me truly appreciate my Palm. It was elegant both inside and out. I appreciated the reading for being both insightful and for reminding me of what I admired most about Palm and Palm OS. The design was sleek and beautiful. (Sometimes I even found myself holding the PDA just to look at it) The case itself made me want to take it with me. Its color screen was clearly visible even in broad daylight, so I was never prevented from reading my information, a feature my current cell phone lacks. I still have my palm 505 with me in berkeley, many years after its obsolescence. I still don't want to get rid of device. I've even toyed with the notion of reviving it lately. The palm's calendar and to-do list applications are actually better than any of those available on my PC. Not only more efficient, but far more elegant and enjoyable to use. PDA's can be quite instructive in how to design user interfaces of any sort.

Alex Choy - Jan 28, 2008 11:01:53 pm

Jones and Marsden's article briefly mentioned wearable computing research. I thought it would be great to have displays embedded in glasses. In addition, depending on what I am doing, I may or may not want to adopt the Swiss Army Knife approach and instead aim for something that is more specialized and directed. I believe that 1.4.1's section on "Overlooking the real bugs" is important and that average/typical users must be involved when testing a design. Moggridge's Chapter 3 article on Palm showed how they were able to adapt to changes taking place in the world by developing innovative products. Since the cell phone was becoming the major communicating device, they were able to combine the functionality of a PDA with that of the cell phone in the Treo. Rob Haitani was also very practical with his ideas, as he prioritized tools that were used often to be displayed on the small screen.

Hannah Hu - Jan 28, 2008 10:54:11 pm

A few points of interest:

Communication v. Information: It seems to me that much emphasis is placed on information rather than communication on current devices. While it's great to surf the Web or perhaps take a quick photo for an assignment, communicating is still done mainly on a keypad, via IM clients or MMS. This is where sensory/motor input may shine, but the auditory and gestural implementation mentioned in Jones & Marsden concern with information retrieval. If this technology can be implemented with communication, perhaps it will facilitate person-to-person interaction through devices.

As an aside, current keypads use the QWERTY, while devotees to the Dvorak keyboard layout claimed quicker typing speed and less carpal ergonomic problems on desktops and laptops over QWERTY. If people adopt the Dvorak system for mobile devices, how much of a difference in productivity would that make?

Appliance v. Swiss Army Knife: Apple has shown that both concepts can wed happily, with some caveats. I must disclaim that I have never experimented with the iPhone, but I imagine that the various apps on the device - Web browser, email, music player, camera, etc. - are, compared to desktop or stand-alone versions, simplified to just usability and not feature-bloated. If the Swiss-Army-Knife concept must be used, features should be kept at a mininum to ensure quality.

Natural Interaction: I see much potential in this area. Squeezing, shaking, waving, repositioning - these are more productive and intuitive than pushing buttons or screens.

Megan Marquardt - Jan 28, 2008 11:15:23 pm

I found it interesting to read about Jeff Hawkins' opinions about Graffiti, in which he assumed people like to learn, and how "they pride themselves on learning how to use tools". This way of inputting text was relatively short-lived, and PDAs adapted back to keyboard-like setups. I think once a convention is established, such as the QWERTY keyboard, it is extremely difficult for the general public, not the technically inclined, to switch to a new method like the Graffiti tool. From an economic perspective, it would seem limiting to restrict the target audience. The other chapter touched on this in a way, mentioning how the user interface has to be able to be interpretted by non-programmers and the entire general public, extending the target audience of the product.

The "Possibilities" chapter was very interesting to read, but I feel the most important portion of the chapter was the caution of problems with new techniques such as voice recognition, gestural interfaces, and haptic interfaces, in that the technology is not distinct. People themselves misinterpret gestures, voices, and actions, so there is no possible way to keep computers more responsible than the human brain when it comes to recieving and analyzing human-like input. It is always necessary to have a discrete option available, such as a keyboard or selection via a cursor.

William tseng - Jan 28, 2008 11:22:37 pm

One of the key concepts of Jones & Marsden is the distinction between merely providing information vs providing more expressive communication. The majority of the article then goes on to look into ways mobile devices can be enhanced to provide more levels of communication either between user - user or between user - device. All of the ideas such as varying vibrations, associating sound with actions, gestural input or any combination of these through multi-modal input are really just elaborations and examples of how people can better interact with the device and other users. It is also interesting to note that the idea in section 1.2.2 of using the "mobile" device to control other appliances is something that isn't too far fetched at all if we take a look at things that are already on the market. Already with a common protocol such as blue tooth, where we are able to have devices all interfacing and communicating with each other easily. It is not unimaginable that someday we may have some app where we could look something up on google maps, download the location to a mobile device, then as you enter your car have the device upload the coordinates to the gps nav system on your car. After all they already have cars which can project the sound of your cell phone over the car's audio system through bluetooth, the simple d/ling of a couple of packets of information seems easily achieveable.

The second article by Moggridge is a detailed case study of the story of Palm and its development. The most important thing stressed in the article is the focus on the tasks which are most important most commonly to be used by the end-users. The analogy of having the stapler on the desk while leaving the staple remover inside a draw is a great example of how to approach the decisions of what functions you should present to a user if you have limited real-estate on screen.

Whereas one article showed us the new capailities devices are likely to have, the second article really challenged us to only use what is necessary and avoid "feature-creep". I think the article selection was interesting in presenting both sides of the argument over using the latest and greatest of new features available in the development of a mobile device.

Gary Miguel - Jan 28, 2008 09:18:42 pm

It's hard to know what to write about; those readings were really long. I enjoyed them both. The Jones and Marsden chapter really explored a lot of ways of thinking about interaction with mobile devices, and I enjoyed the image of a person communicating with his phone by shaking his head in different directions.

As to the discussion on appliance versus swiss-army knife, I think the quote about the swiss army knife being not particularly good at all the things it does, etc, misses the point. I, and I think people in general, hate carrying stuff around (save girls who enjoy buying new purses all the time). A device that provides minimal functionality in many areas is very useful if it fits in my pocket and prevents me some back pain.

The most interesting part of the Moggridge chapter was the discussion about the popularity of Graffiti vs QWERTY text input methods. It seems tragic in a way that people get so used to doing things a certain way, that they insist on doing it even if a better way is presented to them. I guess this means designers have to always keep in mind how much users are willing to depart from what they are used to, even if the designers think what the users are used to is crap.

Jonathan Wu Liu - Jan 28, 2008 11:55:56 pm

In Mobile Interaction Design, the concept that stood out to me the most was the fact that people see these mobile items as cherished devices. I believe each UI should be customizable enough to change the look and feel to what the user wants. It definitely needs to be simple to change, but the easier it is to make the product identifiable with the owner, the greater the effect on the bottom line. Designing Interactions made me think about how UI has massively evolved in the last 30 years. We should never be satisfied with the current state of UI, even though some age-old traditions such as the QWERTY remain. Touch is still on one side of the appliance; the UI of touch can still evolve to be used on both sides of the appliance. Once speech recognition becomes more accurate, whole new doors of UI open as well.

Paul Mans - Jan 29, 2008 12:11:12 am

I thought the most exciting area of HCI research Jones and Marsden described was haptics which the author described as "feedback from touch and movement sensors in the skin, muscles, the inner ear and some other organs." One example, the idea of using different vibration patterns to communicate information, seems especially promising. In general, I like the multi-modal approach where the mobile device employs as many of the user's senses and interaction pathways as possible.

Among other reactions to the second article (Moggridge) I developed a new respect and admiration for Microsoft and Steve Ballmer. The anecdote related in this article really makes you want to love that company.

Yunfei Zong - Jan 28, 2008 12:37:27 pm

A toaster can only be a toaster, but that's because its hardware only allows it to be a toaster [or possibly a soldering iron]. However, a mobile PC is well equipped to do many different tasks. Having a single-use pc is completely inefficient in terms of the quantity required for daily use, the programming overhead required to adapt to each interface, as well as the interactivity between the multiple electronics in use. Any feature, as long as it doesn't negatively impact another, should be welcomed; just don't use it if you personally find it to be useless.

Andrew Wan - Jan 29, 2008 12:49:47 am

In the appliance/swiss army knife debate, I tend to think the increasing ubiquity of the Internet and computing in general will keep mobiles in a vague (highly competitive) middle-ground. As phones become more net-capable, they might be considered Internet appliances. Given the increasing "usefulness" of the web, however, it wouldn't be difficult to regard such mobiles as "swiss army knife" type devices, providing many functions through mobile Internet access. This seems to be the case even now; just look to the adoption of Google Maps like programs on phones today (to say nothing of Android...).

I thought that Moggridge's discussion of PalmPilot design underscored the need for simplicity and aesthetics in the mobile market. As new interfaces like those described by Jones and Marsden find their way into common usage, it seems clear that the quality of implementation will have a drastic effect on the success of future mobile devices. For the most part, the technology is nonunique to any product; usability makes all the difference.

Johnny Tran - Jan 29, 2008 01:35:48 am

I am a firm supporter of the philosophy that less can be more. Especially in the consumer electronics and computer software industries, there is a strong trend to cram more and more features into a product, often at the expense of reliability and ease-of-use. Each new feature, option, or flag increases complexity exponentially, and as computer scientists, we all know that anything that's big-O of exponential is bad.

At the same time, the appeal of the Swiss Army Knife in a mobile setting is indisputable--nobody wants to carry a knife, a bottle opener, several types of screwdrivers, and a magnifying glass all at once, even if each individual tool performs its job much better. The personal computer is perhaps the shining example of a wildly-successful electronic Swiss Army Knife: capable of word-processing, e-mail, music, and anything else that one can dream of. Versatility is important, but it seems to be the enemy of simplicity.

But while computers can do anything, not everyone uses his or her computer for the same tasks as everyone else. One's choice of programs could vary wildly from another's. And this I feel is the key to solving the dilemma of simplicity versus complexity: customization. My ideal phone would do only two things, and do them very well: calling, and implementing a software platform. On top of this software platform, I can add applications to do the additional tasks that I want my phone to do. Perhaps for me it could be keeping a calendar, checking my email, and listening to music. For someone else, it could be texting, playing Pac-Man, and getting the weather. But I don't need to be bothered with features I would never use--I should be able to customize my phone for my own maximum utility.

No company could ever create a single product with the feature mix that will appeal perfectly to everyone. So why bother?

Gordon Mei - Jan 29, 2008 02:18:07 am

In Jones and Marsden, one of the issues they outlined was the problem of feature creep to the point where the device does almost anything, but no particular function performed its task very well, as analogized with the multitude of tools on the Swiss army knife. We see this tendency in the mobile device world, where marketers tout video e-mailing capabilities or other higher-end, intensive features that don't serve the interests of the majority of the users, all at the expense of the original fundamentals of call quality, reception, and battery life. In fact, there's a trend in carrier-modified phone UIs to remap keys and replace the most visible menu items with carrier online music services or video services, while previously center stage functions like the address book get bumped down and become rendered less easily accessible.

In the piece by Moggridge, Palm overcame a design interaction obstacle by developing Graffiti, a loosely-based handwriting system to quickly pen in letters with the stylus. They realized that these portable devices would compete with paper, not the computer, and in order to encourage adoption successfully, they would have to develop a system based on a task we've grown to use since elementary school - handwriting.

Edward Chen - Jan 29, 2008 03:18:53 am

What I found the most interesting from the Mobile Interaction Design reading was the fact that there was so many different ways of interacting with a mobile device. While a lot of them seem far-fetched and weird right now, the Designing Interactions reading illustrates examples such as Grafitti and the thumb keyboard that were also strange and unique at the time as a style of input. It is very likely that in the future, we will be interacting with devices an assortment of peculiar interfaces that were mentioned in the Mobile Interaction Design reading.

The Designing Interactions reading also shows the importance of timing and knowing whether people are ready for a new technology. The Handspring team knew when it was right for the cell phone and PDA integration and the success of the Treo was largely based around that. Furthermore, they knew that while innovations are sometimes, a sense of familiarity can also be beneficial in the case of using a QWERTY thumb keyboard.

Jun Kang Chin - Jan 29, 2008 02:23:20 am

Jones and Marsden bring out an interesting concept of appliance vs swiss army knife. I believe that making a cellphone an appliance vs swiss army is more of a marketing issue. The cellphone market can be segmented into a few type of audiences (ie teens, working professionals) who'll need varying degrees of multi-functionality.

Teens for example, would want more entertainment - orientated phones that'll allow them to listen to music, play games and stream videos? For example in high school, I used to spend hours playing 'snakes' on the nokia phones or play Worms Armageddon against friends on the nokia n-gage. To accommodate all these features, such a cell phone will probably be a swiss army knife. Unless mobile game console firms such as nintendo and sony start building devices with phone capabilities, it is unlikely that cell phone makers will create as good a dedicated gaming/communication devices as the entertainment firms.

Now as a busy college student, my priorities have changed and I only need my phone to make calls, SMS, use it as a alarm clock , and use the planner/calender. I no longer have free time, or long commutes on public transportation, to play on my cell phone. Hence what I need is just a simple communication appliance, no need for a few hundred dollar IPhone.

Hence I believe there'll always be appliance-only and swiss knife-only phones for both design camps to exist. Like the Palm design philosophy warned, "do a few things and do them right" or prepare for mediocre results.

Fan Yang - Jan 29, 2008 04:20:22 am

I find it interesting when Jones and Marsden discussed the trade offs between the single function "application" and the swiss-army knife devices that were being proposed. I agree that many users like their devices to be straight forward and simple to use, but at the same time, in the current world with so many things going on, a user might very well require a device to do multiple things effectively or multiple different devices. While it seems that current developers are trying to cram as much functionality into an all-in-one device as they can, it seems to me that the current devices have too many useless applications. I'm sure that each application has some use to some body, but right now what I feel is that the devices need to be simpler and more customizable, so that each user can decide whether they want such and such functionality or not.

Its also interesting to see the variety of user interactions that can be accomplished on mobile devices, between the peephole for visuals, to the TouchEngine for haptics and the voice recognition interfaces. I'm a bit worried how error prone these inputs are, as it seems to me that it would be very easy to mistakenly enter in some input to the device by just doing different daily operations.

Kai Man Jim - Jan 29, 2008 08:37:16 am

This article tells me that there are lots of things to play with my cell phone beside calling and text messaging. To be honest, I have a Sony W810i, which is a walkman cell phone. It has a good quality of sound from speaker and earphone, so users can use it as a mp3. The bad thing is it is very easy to use up the battery if you really treat it as a mp3. There, I have never use that walkman function since I figured out there is a problem. My phone doesn't come with a touch screen senser, but those sound and gesture features really remind me that there is one successful cell phone that has all these features in the market, which is the i-phone. I-phone is the phone that really comes with creative features like touch screen, web browsing, mp3, photo..... and the good thing is it is easy to use. Therefore, I think i-phone will be the guideline for the next cell phone generation.

Katy Tsai - Jan 29, 2008 10:21:09 am

I think the author places an interesting juxtaposition of the toaster and the Swiss Army Knife. People have been so consumed in trying to make the mobile phone a portable do-it-all, when in reality, everything that gets reduced to a simplified interface becomes a little harder to do and less specialized.

In the second article, Rob Haitani points out the importance of focus groups in understanding what customers really want. When he introduced the concept of wireless e-mail to the consumer, she didn’t care for it at all. This goes to show that even if we are capable of a certain technology, it’s not always better to add it into a product. This is essential to remember because while our capabilities are somewhat limitless, consumers aren’t always ready for these large-scale changes.

In general, the challenge is to create something that is personally relevant and important. It’s not about what we are capable of doing or how cool we think something can be. It’s about how important it is to consumers and how marketable the product and its features will be in the end.

Ravi Dharawat - Jan 29, 2008 10:29:36 am

The use of different input technologies mentioned in Mobile Interaction Design is interesting, with haptics and sound being two areas that are relatively underused in current mobile devices, though there is really no reason for them to be. Both technologies would make the mobile device feel more natural. The use of a peephole is very useful for a variety of applications from image viewing to web-browsing, but has it's limitations when it comes to certain applications that require the full-screen (video playback). I think that Apple deals with this problem well in its ipod touch and iphone, fading out interaction buttons when the user is viewing something. However, this approach does not work for applications where the user wants both to see everything at once and be able to interact with what he or she is seeing. One way to deal with this is to combine fading buttons with a touch screen or stylus and gesture-recognition, but that would require costly hardware as well as a steeper learning curve, though that may not necessarily be a bad thing considering the success of Graffiti. But to emulate Graffiti's success the gestures must make working faster, and be a novelty. Rather, I think the true answer lies in balancing the amount of information placed on the most accessible screen and the amount of information hidden away on subsequent screens. This seems to be the primary point of interface optimization in mobile apps, for which there is no formula or standard. Robert Haitani mentioned doing this when he worked on the PalmPilot.

Lita Cho - Jan 29, 2008 10:06:44 am

Mobile Interaction Design by Jones and Marsden brought up the interesting discussion of a cell phone being a cherished device or a commodity tool. I personally use my cell phone has a tool to make phone calls and occasionally play a game when I am waiting for something. However, my sister cannot live without it. She uses as a fashion statement, adding cute trinkets and stickers to make her cell phone to show her personality.

The discussion of appliance or a swiss army knife was also interesting. I believe that giving up simplicity in order to have your mobile device be an all-in-one utility would limit your user base. Mass majority of people need simple appliance-like devices in order for them to learn how to use the device quickly and easily. I do agree with Jeff Hawkins statement about how we the developers are not the normal customer, rather we are geeks. For us, we would a multipurpose device and figure out how to use it. On the other hand, the normal customer might get frustrated and stressed. Thus I completely agree with Rob Haitani and his guidelines he gave in Design Interactions: "Less is more. Avoid adding features. Strive for fewer steps. Simplicity is better than complexity."

Richard Lo - Jan 29, 2008 12:00:40 pm

The point made in Jones and Marsden regarding the niche of the mobile device in our lifestyles in intriguing. They argue that the mobile device is not just a simple tool anymore, but a crutch for those who lean heavily in being connected to the world and has transformed into a very personal, intimate device for many people. Later in the reading they articulate it further, saying that the device is no longer just an appliance, but a symbol of the user's identity. Clearly the mobile applications must also reflect this idea.

Jeffrey Wang - Jan 29, 2008 11:55:05 am

I think the author makes a good point regarding mobile phones are likely to be a "part" of someone. Being able to carry the device around with them make it more personal than some machine that you just leave at home. This might be a factor in causing people to be pick better-looking or more stylish phones. Certain companies with great design teams have clearly succeeded in this category.

I also agree that rather trying to implement a do-all type of phone, it might be more successful to concentrate on a certain features. For example, the Blackberry, which has specialized in emails, has market dominance over the business industry. I believe there is still about of work to be done to the communication aspect of the phone.

Jason Wu - Jan 29, 2008 12:14:03 pm

There are obviously different demographics that need to be observed, hence why the Swiss Army Knife approach may or may not be useful to all product types. Personally, I like the most minimalist cell phone that does what it's supposed to very well. I feel this is a large market that many mobile products (and their accompanying UI) are missing. Possibly two modes, "appliance" and "swiss" would work.

I remember using the Grafitti more as a game (and in fact they had games to train you), rather than a suitable replacement for QWERTY keyboards. I believe since most people have been trained by the pervasive QWERTY keyboards, it will take a much faster or more intuitive interface for people to want to train and make the switch from the traditional.

Robert Glickman - Jan 29, 2008 11:28:44 am

Some things of note I found particularly interesting:

In the bionic implants sidebar, it is interesting to me that someone is currently testing bionic implants on himself. It is interesting and scary to think about the implications of hacking and planting viruses on such bionic implants.

It seems fallacious to try to unnecessarily provide familiar interfaces on mobile devices. Such devices are not desktop computers and should not share all the interface that desktops do. The T9 method is a good example of adjustment to mobile design. It allows a new way of typing that is very intuitive once one adjusts to it. While Fasttap provides a familiar alphabetic keyboard, QWERTY is used in desktops for a reason and probably should not be discarded. On that note, the Blackberry Pearl is a small-size smartphone that has multiple letters per key (2 letters) and a QWERTY keyboard. 2 letters per key is an exponential improvement over 3 letters and this device has a very good dictionary that allows word adjustment as you go along, instead of multitap (sort of a tap and select, rather than multitap). The Twiddler is confusing to me and seems somewhat counterintuitive, although i'm sure a lot of time went into the design and there is some method to its madness. Also, Gummi is a very interesting idea and I look forward to its development.

Andrei Scheinkman - Jan 29, 2008 11:40:06 am

While reading through the different interfaces described by Jones and Marsden, I kept going back to Jeff Hawkin's comment (in his discussion of Grafitti) about the tradeoffs between users adapting to computers vs. computers adapting to users. It seems that an important factor in evaluating the effectiveness of any interface -- whether it's haptic, auditory, gestural, aromatic -- is how much effort the user is willing to make in order to learn a new way of interacting with that device.

Henry Su - Jan 29, 2008 12:05:17 pm

I certainly agree that user access to the most frequently used features should be as simple as possible (as the Moggridge reading suggested). As an example, my current cellphone requires a total of 8 keystrokes to change from ring mode to vibration mode. And, these 8 keystrokes are not at all intuitive to new users. Such a frequently used feature should probably be accomplish-able in far fewer strokes. Adopting this philosophy, it is possible to have mobile devices with many features, but with the less frequently used features tucked under menus, as the Moggridge reading suggests. Along this line of thinking, I don't agree with the Jones and Marsden suggestion that we should have separate specially-designed devices for each different task--such differentiation may make each device more user-friendly, but carrying all of those devices around, and finding the one you need each time, can be burdensome.

One concept I found particularly interesting--and haven't given much thought of until now--is Jones and Marsden's point that many people have emotional attachments to their mobile devices. Although many of us take our cell phones and other mobile devices for granted, the first couple paragraphs of the reading really illustrate the importance of mobile devices in a typical person's emotional life.

Bruno Mehech - Jan 29, 2008 12:36:42 pm

Jones and Marsden give many interesting points where a designer can overlook problems in his design when he fails to properly follow one of the design cycles that we have talked about in class, such as not testing with actual users or not testing with any users at all. Another thing that Jones and Marsden mention is that just because mobile interfaces are very limited due to their size, the interaction does not have to be limited as well. If the interaction in a mobile device is limited it isn't due to the limited interface but to the designer. It was then interesting reading Moggridge to see how early attempts at designing PDAs were failures mostly because these points that Jones and Marsden makes weren't being observed. It wasn't until the Palm Pilot was being designed that many of the pitfalls that Jones and Marsden mentioned were avoided. One example of this that I found interesting was the choice not to include wireless email because, though the designers thought it would be a very useful feature, they realized the common users at that time had no need for it.

Reid Hironaga - Jan 29, 2008 12:29:19 pm

A very intriguing excerpt from the Designing Interactions reading suggested that people will adapt to the machines, assuming the machines are built effectively and efficiently at their task. "Well, people don’t mind using a tool as long as it helps them perform the task. I think they like to learn. They pride themselves on learning how to use tools, as long as the tool is consistent, it’s learnable, it has a good model, and it’s reliable.” I find this to be true to a certain degree. Most people in our society can type on a keyboard, ride a bicycle, or manage to interact through a pathetic fast-food drive-through communication system. While all of these systems take patience to learn and fully utilize, they are useful and eventually provide benefits that can outweigh the price of adapting to them. However, people also tend to follow strange patterns, preferring popular items to more effective and efficient ones in many cases, such as flashy mp3 players or cars. I thought it was interesting that much of the reading relied heavily on the reader's assumption that the Palm Pilot actually was an effective device, trusting the author's (somewhat biased) assessment of success. In the Mobile Interaction Design reading, I agree with the need for an all-in-one device, which is capable of replacing the set of often redundant yet independent devices which are carried around such as laptops, cell phones, planners, and mp3 players. This text definitely goes into a broader spectrum of impacts that design flaws cause, ranging from ruining a person's day to distracting people in such a way as to cause fatal accidents. These ethical implications are a very important part of user interface design, especially when considering how the product will be used or handled.

Siyu Song - Jan 29, 2008 12:49:44 pm

I think obviously the main point of the articles is to highlight the fact that mobile technology is converging on an "all purpose" cell phone. While the focus of the articles was on the actual products, I thought they could have mentioned more on the infrastructure on which all these wireless technologies will run. I think wireless providers like ATT and Verizon could prove to be bigger limiting factors than the ability to design great products.

Joe Cancilla - Jan 29, 2008 12:46:46 pm

I was suprised that I couldn't find any mention of power contraints in Jones and Marsden. One of the main contraints of mobile devices is the fact that you can't plug them in. Perhaps this has nothing to do with the user interface, but in my opinion it should. I believe that the battery level indicator should pretty much always be present no matter what you are doing. I also believe that this will greatly influence what they see as a divide between possible trends in mobile devices: towards several appliances for specific uses or a do it all swiss army knife. An added benefit of more appliances, is that you'll end up with longer battery life, because you are carrying around multiple devices you are also carrying around multiple batteries (this sort of thinking is based on the trend of non interchangeable proprietary batteries (sony, nokia, samsung) or the complete lack of replaceable batteries (Apple). I also tend to believe that regular users (including myself) would prefer an ideal, easy-to-use swiss army knife (like the treo or iPhone), but that a more advanced-geekier user (including myself) would want the best device for the best purpose. So, I end up carrying a really good media player, a really good cellphone, while wishing I had the ultimate device that could do all well and have really good battery power. While the thought that obviously went into the Palm and other PDA devices (iPhone, Windows, etc.) is impressive, I still prefer the appliance model.

Adam Singer - Jan 29, 2008 01:04:23 pm

In Mobile Interaction Design, Jones and Marsden discuss two of the main 'projections' people have about the future of mobile devices. In this discussion, they bring up Don Norman's view that users will want to move to a more appliance/one-device-per-function model. While this idea is prevalent in science fiction movies (I'm imagining the scene in The Fifth Element where it took three or four robots to clean up a simple broken glass), I honestly don't think that technology is moving in this direction. No, rather, devices are increasingly becoming digital swiss army knives, and are slowly getting better at doing so.

I think Norman's main objection to the swiss army knife concept is that there are a plethora of devices out there that have an inconceivable number of features, but compensate by not implementing them particularly well. With the advent of laptop computers, and smartphones (like the iPhone), we are slowly seeing a vast improvement in the quality of device features without sacrificing quality. On top of all of this, I think one of the most powerful forces in consumer behavior is convenience. Nobody wants to have to carry around a camera, a cell phone, an iPod, and a PDA; but if there is something that can act as all of these devices, it doesn't take a psychologist to point out the allure of such a piece of technology.

Max Preston - Jan 29, 2008 01:05:42 pm

It seems as though mobile devices are gaining more and more of the features common in full-fledged computers. Perhaps when processing and storage technologies advance enough, mobile devices will be just as fast as current high-end desktops. It makes me wonder whether small devices such as these will eventually replace desktops and laptops altogether, while still retaining popular mobile features such as GPS and use as a phone. Missing features such as mouse input and a large screen could be resolved with external devices. You could literally bring your computer everywhere you go in your pocket. The future will be interesting...

Nir Ackner - Jan 29, 2008 01:18:37 pm

Jones and Marsden argue that "there will be real pressures to give devices all the latest, most dazzling interaction technologies" but suggest that we "resist bloating the devices in this way,...insisting on selecting those [technologies] that will give the user simple, direct, unnoticeable ways of communicating their needs." At the same time, they claim that "employing two modalities can help in two ways."

This seems to suggest providing any sensible interface for each of the input and output sources we have, but not adding more and more I/O devices unless there is a compelling reason to do so. (For instance in gmail, where the clicking and keyboard shortcuts accomplish the same tasks, but there is no reason to include a microphone on a device to navigate email)

Tam La - Jan 29, 2008 01:37:51 pm

In chapter 1 reading I thought the BOX 1.2 is really interesting when they talk about "Don't smoke, light up a mobile phone, it's safer" I like the idea of using mobile phone for not only the purpose of making call but also for helping people from smoking. I don't know how effective it is but I really like the idea of thinking out of the box. Using an existing product for other purpose. Now with all the new technologies, a mobile phone is not just a device for making phone call anymore. Consumer now wants everything to be available on one device and it need to be the smallest device.

In 1.2.2 “Appliance or Swiss Army Knife” It true how handy a Swiss Army Knife is when you’re off in the wilderness and that often none of them work particularly well. The point is the same with mobile device. When a mobile device have a lot of application for consumers to use most often those application does function correctly or not as useful.

It also interesting how the Palm Treo were able to combine and adapt the functionality of the PDA with that of a mobile phone. It showed that a device need to be able be transform into new products when comsumers demand for it.

Zhihui Zhang - Jan 29, 2008 12:15:47 pm

In regards to the swiss army knife versus toaster debate, it seems that both sides holds its own merits. For example, while a office computer (the all capable swiss army knife) can perform almost all the functions of a TIVO system, it can never be a full replacement. This is because the office computer is TOO capable; It can do too many things. What if you want to work on a spreadsheet but your daughter wants to watch episodes of The Office that she recorded? One solution to this would be of course to have a dedicated computer for use as a TIVO system. But then that almost seems to be going overboard. Why not just purchase a TIVO? On the other hand, it doesn't hurt for a computer to have TIVO capabilities so long as it doesn't detract from the basic functionality of a computer. It only becomes a problem if the TIVO software eats up too much processing power prevents you from working on your spreadsheet. Then of course, there's the problem of clutter. If you give a device too much functionality, without significantly improving the interface, then it can become burdensome for the user to use any particular function. You wouldn't want to carry around a 50lb swiss army knife no matter how many features were crammed into it. While it can be convenient to have all purpose mobile devices that incorporates MP3 player, web browser, and digital camera functionality, these devices cannot quite fully replace (at least not yet) these devices yet.

Another thing of interest is the various interfaces brought up. Particular, I am curious as to the learning curve required of some of these new input methods (even a keyboard requires some time before a user becomes familiar with its entry method). while a multitouch input might not be very fast, it is relatively simple to learn. Likewise, the Grafitti input method used on palm devices becomes somewhat intuitive since the input gestures match up with how the letters appear. However, other input methods such as the the tilt based system used by Wigdor and Balakrishnan, 2003 doesn't seem very intuitive to me and would probably necessitate a bit of a learning curve before users can take full advantage of the efficiency gained by the new paradigm

Randy Pang - Jan 29, 2008 01:41:44 pm

I find that Jones and Marsden's notion that cell phones should be metaphorically categorized as appliances or swiss-army knives is fundamentally flawed. To categorize this divide as acutely and sharply as they did, yet define the consumer demand so generally doesn't yield any insight into how mobile devices should be designed. In the end the concern is not about whether a mobile should be a jack of all trades or a master of few, but rather how should a mobile solve the problems of the user. The users themselves should be the genesis of the design pattern, rather then exploiting design patterns to cater to users. This is why you see both all flavors of cell phones succeeding today, because there is a such diverse user base. Certain users prefer appliance based phones (for example, the most basic phone whose only UI is to make and receive calls), other users prefer something in the middle (probably the majority of phones on the market, that can do a few additional things like take pictures, play games, make text messages, etc.), and other users do prefer the jack of all trades, however, it is important to note that being a jack of all trades does not mutually exclude one from being a master of few (for example, the reason the iPhone was touted as so revolutionary, is because despite offer many useful, albeit hacked, third party applications, it was main acclaim came from being able to do the internet, media, and communication especially well).

Maxwell Pretzlav - Jan 29, 2008 02:12:30 pm

It seems to me in the Jones and Marsden paper, the discussion of an appliance device vs. a swiss army device is very important. I think, though, that with a sufficiently well designed UI one could make a device that has the ease of use of an appliance for several different functions. In essence it seems this is what the iPhone is an attempt to achieve -- a device where the screen and buttons can completely change depending on what the current function is, to be the ideal device for each given function. I expect as technology and awareness improves we will see more and more device attempting to achieve a more seamless merger of multi-functionality and ease of use, slowly approaching that of dedicated "appliance" style devices for each function.

Timothy Edgar - Jan 29, 2008 02:28:44 pm

The Mobile Interaction Design chapter presented a variety of different input and output ideas. It offered auditory, haptic, smell and visual interfaces. This reminded me a lot of the Wii where the ways of interaction drastically changed the nature of the device. The amount of complexity in the Wiimote allows for a different game experience that proved to be a lot more inclusive in terms of target market. The amount of potential within using motion sensing in the gaming realm is rather untapped, which is analogous to the mobile platform. Additionally the aspect of complexity resonated quite well as the more complex the interaction, the more distraction and potential danger there could be. This is also found in the Wii as people suffer from Wii-itis or muscle sores since it does involve physical interaction.

The Palm article was quite interested as it presented a very clear and focused interface design thought. Unlike a swiss-army knife, it described the goals and constraints and accomplished a task as best it could do. The Zen riddles seem to allow for disruptive technologies as it breaks from unconventional wisdom. From my last comment, it seems that UI advancement needs disruptive technologies as you need something compelling enough to change the way people interact.

Jesse Albini - Jan 29, 2008 02:39:43 pm

Possibly the most exciting idea that I gleaned from the reading (besides spending an hour reading about Kevin Warwick and Project Cyborg :p) was the idea of devices interacting with each other and using multiple methods of input to increase productivity. Mobile devices are plagued by the give-and-take relationship between mobility and usability. It's a beautiful idea to think of being able to quickly connect your mobile phone to ubiquitous display terminals across the city. Or, better yet, connectivity between Project Cyborg implants and your PDA! I suppose a boy can dream...

Daniel Markovich - Jan 29, 2008 02:56:32 pm

In "Mobile Interaction Design, Chapter 1," I found that the "Appliance or Swiss Army Knife?" section raised many of my personal feelings on the topic. Although I do agree with Don Norman that household computers will most likely end up being an "appliance," I feel that mobile devices will not be. One of the highlights and reasons that PDAs and similar mobile devices have gained such popularity is that they are compact, and within their compact space contain much diversity and power in applications. Yes these "Swiss Army Knife" devices don't have the same power and functionality that 4 or 5 separate devices might, but they are mobile friendly, fitting into your pocket or purse. Not to mention that I feel this is their exact purpose. They are not meant to be a substitute for all of these devices, just an intermediate convenience until you have access to the full powered devices at home, your office, etc..

Andry Jong - Jan 29, 2008 03:08:35 pm

This week's reading, both the one by Jones & Marsden and the one by Moggridge, talks about innovations that can be done in mobile devices. After reading both chapters, I realized that they both talked about how much new technology developers would want to put into a new product. Jones & Marsden claim that it depends on whether the developer would want to build an "appliance or Swiss army knife" (p.11). Jones & Marsden assert that while appliance – which can only do one task – can do its job perfectly, Swiss army knife – which has everything in it – can do nothing right. While I have to agree with the example given by Jones & Marsden, I do not think it can be compared with mobile devices. Most people use computers today, and sometimes they want to bring their personal files with them as they go from place to place. They cannot bring their PC with them, nor can they have access to other computer all the time. Here is where it became extremely essential for mobile devices to be able to do multiple tasks. I agree, however, to Jeff Hawkins in Designing Interactions by Moggridge where he says that when developers add too many new features to a new device all at the same time, people will reject it. As I said in the previous readings, we need to keep the users excited enough to our product to use it (or learn it).

Jiahan Jiang - Jan 29, 2008 03:13:14 pm

I was particularly inspired by the section in Mobile Interaction Design that discusses the reason developing advanced mobile applications is difficult and slow and the necessity for interaction design. Until now I never considered the difference between "satisfactory customer experience" versus "easy to use" general satisfaction; it is interesting to consider the difference between a system that seems to be "easy" from the general, whole perspective and a system that is efficient and customized to individual users. The document definitely shined new light on the definition, goal, and development of mobile devices.

Roseanne Wincek - Jan 29, 2008 03:05:28 pm

I really enjoyed the Palm article. When I was in college (I'm kind of old), I totally had a handspring visor. I had two other PDA's (some HP thing, and a Sony Clio which I bought because it came with a camera and could play MP3's), but they never really stuck. I tried to tailor my life and habits to the features of the device. However, the devices were clearly designed for a business user rather than a college student. This sentiment was echoed in the article, where the author said that they weren't designing devices for themselves, because they are nerds that will like any new device, but rather general people who are going to use whatever has the highest utility for them. I think that is also the beauty of their design. They didn't want to one-up available PDA's or out-feature their competitor. They realized that their real competition was a paper organizer, which is fantastically easy to use, but rather limited.

A similar idea came up in the Mobile Phone reading. The authors argue that mobile phones are so popular and pervasive because they facilitate basic human desires. Their interview with Kevin Warwick also touched on this idea. He said that when designing new technology there's a risk of "focusing too much on what people think they want or need", since that basic want or need is dynamic, and can change with the development of new technology. Mobile phones took something that the general population is used to (talking on the phone), put that functionality in their pockets, and then completely changed the demographic. We all have moments, today (i.e. meeting up with someone, making plans, picking someone up at the airport), where we think, How did anyone ever do this without cell phones?

Jeff Bowman - Jan 29, 2008 03:23:41 pm

Along the "Swiss Army Knife" vein, I believe that we need to consider the evolution of the cell phone technology in considering the evolution of the mobile interface. After all, the original users of cell phones—usually well-paid professionals and technology experts—dictated the need for more features and more technology. The computer followed a similar path, many years ago, and like the computer, the cell phone is now experiencing a period where the technology no longer drives the marketability of a cell phone.

It is for this purpose that products such as the "Jitterbug"--a minimally-featured cell phone designed for the elderly and technologically-incapable--is finally hitting the market. It is also this trend that makes the iPhone such a trendsetting device; it has few unique hardware features, but garnered its fame from its radically different interface.

It seems that the authors of Designing Mobile Interaction aimed the book at this purpose, though the concept is general: At some point, technology advances to a point where the bottleneck is the interface and not the technology behind it, and cell phones are long overdue for the overhaul we have seen in the last two years and continuing into the present.

Pavel Borokhov - Jan 29, 2008 12:28:50 pm

As a user, I feel like I can really relate to a lot of what Jones and Marsden are saying. I do find it a bit hard to believe, however, that things such as "test your interface with users" need to be explicitly mentioned in these texts. It seems like any designer, of any product or discipline, should always focus on the actual users of their project instead of some design concepts or ideas that they have come up with themselves. This is not to say, of course, that designs themselves should never be revised just because users are accustomed to some sort of modal paradigm and it "works" for them - there is always room for improvement. I also find it interesting that some of the cues and input mechanisms they mention are in fact already in production software and hardware today. Earcons are used fairly extensively by the Finder under Mac OS X, though the sound effects cannot be customized, individual effects cannot be turned off, and there is no real system-wide framework for using a standardized sound set to signify a specific set of alerts or actions that user might take. Of course, one might say that the lack of customization is actually a good thing, as it would overcomplicate the interface while achieving a minimal (if any) improvement in usability.

Another thing I found quite worth mentioning was that developing interfaces for restricted users, such as those with limited dexterity, etc, can often lead to improvements for the public at large. I could not agree more. Just because "most" of the population does not have some disability does not mean that we somehow enjoy needing to exert additional efforts to get certain things done. This is especially true with websites. Oftentimes, a site that is hard to navigate and does not work consistently across browsers will also fail in meeting numerous requirements for true accessibility and standards compliance. As a result, if a website undertakes the effort to become truly accessible (mainly to less-sighted users), the outcome can frequently result in a much better user experience for fully-sighted site visitors. Also, multimodal interaction, which can arise as a result of accommodating users who are limited in some particular mode, can help all users by allowing them to supplement their abilities to use the system with the additional sensory inputs.

Brian Trong Tran - Jan 29, 2008 03:27:26 pm

I think it was really cool in how we were reading about design for mobile applications in Jones and Marsden and then we could see an application of the discussion in the readings on the design of the Palm in Moggridge. It's kind of nice to see that even though many interfaces are lacking, the development of the Palm shows a step in the correct direction. I really liked how Jones and Marsden pointed out communication and information devices because mobile devices could have both functions. Joining those two together must have been a very pioneering at the time.

Raymond Planthold - Jan 29, 2008 02:48:12 pm

Eric Cheung asked way up at the top about what happened to various alternate input systems. In the case of Graffiti, Palm eviscerated it due to a patent lawsuit from Xerox over the PARC system mentioned in the article. The replacement system basically goes back to the original method Jeff Hawkins tried, with each Graffiti letter looking like the actual written letter. Surely enough, it sucks, for exactly the reasons he says in the article.

I was also curious about the Fastap system, so I found their website. It appears that only one Fastap phone has been released in the US, the LG AX490. It wasn't on a very popular carrier (Alltel) and most reviews of the phone say that the keypad worked great, but everything else about the phone sucked. That's really too bad.

I also found the section on multi-modal input systems particularly interesting. I took the Linguistics 105/Cog Sci 101 class on cognitive linguistics, and one topic we discussed was that everybody gestures when speaking, even when they don't think they do. There is a close mental association between talking about an action and performing the action. So I can easily see how the QuickSet system would feel quite natural to users without too much training.

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