Be it building shelters, gathering food or traveling long distances; people always had an innate desire to do things better and faster. It's been always possible to improve some part of an activity or a tool related to it. Even entire professions have been forgotten after becoming obsolete. Thanks to the increasing pace of technological advancements, our children won't anymore recognize objects their parents grew up with.
Except when it comes to user interfaces.
I grew up with computers around me, and my kids will grow up with even more computers around them. Over the years, they've gotten a lot smaller and immensely more powerful. What hasn't really changed, is the graphical user interface staring back at us. The desktop metaphor with windows, icons, menus and a pointer (WIMP) has stayed intact for over 40 years.
The first mobile devices had no touch screens, and had to be navigated with either directional keys or a scroll wheel. It was logical to use the same approach for such a miniaturized desktop, but when touch screens became more popular, user could directly interact with things. This made controlling a pointer redundant.
After the mouse pointer was removed and touchable things made a bit bigger for suitable finger operation, everything was ready for profit-making. Nobody seemed to question, whether an interface paradigm originally designed to be operated with a keyboard and mouse (WIMP), was really applicable for a mobile touch screen use:
Unlike desktops, mobile devices
- are primarily used without a supporting surface (table or similar)
- are used in dynamic environments with disruptions
- can't assume user is constantly looking at the screen
- can't assume both hands are available for a basic operation
- can't assume equal amount of time is available to perform a task
Regardless, all mainstream mobile operating systems treat mobile use the same way as desktop use. The familiar button-based navigation model, dating back 40 years, does not really qualify for mobile use. It requires too much attention from it's user to be efficient. Too much precision to be comfortable. Too much time to be fast.
Replacing mouse and keyboard with touch alone, just decreases the speed user can control the system, making it actually worse than the desktop. It's been a wobbly decade of mobile user interface infancy. The only way it's gotten any better, is through nicer visuals and smoother transitions. But that's just surface - a better hardware clad in finer clothes.
At this rate, my grandchildren can still identify an Android phone, because baby steps were considered good enough. That's a valid strategy as long as everyone copies one another, and no alternatives exist: a family tree that looks like a ladder. It's an open invitation for smaller companies to deliver less inbred products, that are designed to adapt to your life, instead the other way around.
If you still think those archaic desktop conventions are enough to keep your massive software business afloat today, you're not the first one. The bad news is, that the only way a dinosaur could avoid extinction, was to stop being one, and evolve into something else.
Before it was too late.
Thanks for reading and see you in the next post. In the meantime, agree or disagree, debate or shout. Bring it on and spread the word.