Monday, March 30, 2009

Things To Keep In Mind When Designing A Multitouch Table

Otto Von Bismark once said,

"Some wise men learn from their mistakes. I prefer to learn from those of others."

This is a wise maxim that we designers often forget. Julie Meridian recently wrote a great assessment of the Surface applications at Harrah's RIO iBar.

She talks eloquently and insightfully about the UX problems. en I look at a failure of this magnitude, I wonder how it came to I don't end up in the same place.

The issues I experienced with this system scream of poor project management and a failure to ask for outside help. You wouldn't just pick up a Trumpet and try to play it. Why multitouch?
In the current economic climate, I know that asking for this sort of thing isn't popular, but the other alternative is that the project WILL either run out of control or there will be signifiant usability issues.

If you are starting planning on your first multitouch project, please for your own sake, reach out and ask for experienced help during the planning stage. It will pay back in spades.

Below, I've written out the top 13 issues I see when reviewing work for others:

- Occlusion (what content is blocked by hands or other people)
- Button size (Fitts' Law) - Text size create (legible from 4' away)
- Usable from multiple directions

- Highly visual: The less words and the more specific the imagery, the easier it will be for a broad demogrphic to use the device.
- No irrelevant information (Anyone ordering olives in their Bailey's simply needs to be cut off)
- Transitions: When working on your state/transition diagram, Transitions should be planned carefully. The way content and controllers animate can do a huge amount to suggest what they do, how to use them, and whether touch events have been registered.

- Strong progressive disclosure
- Modeless controls
- Privacy (what and when should various users have access to what information, private pin #'s, etc.
- Provide a visual cue that all touches have been registered...even when they don't trigger a state change.

Form Factor and Environment
- Appropriate height and orientation
- Infrared lighting (for vision-based systems like Surface)
- Orientation is appropriate for the length of the interaction.

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