Touchscreen *and* desktop interface

25 Jul 2007 - 12:27pm
6 years ago
6 replies
840 reads
Laura Valentino
2007

Hi All,
This is my first post to the list...and I'm happy to be here! I've come
to software interface design from a graphics and web design background,
and I'm rather isolated at the small office here in Iceland which has
been merged twice now into larger corporations.

Now for my question...I've been asked to design an interface
(translation: come up with a look and feel) for a medical database
program which "may also be used on a touchscreen". They seem to have in
mind that one interface can be used for both touchscreen and
non-touchscreen devices. In my mind, these are 2 different things! Has
anyone ever done this before? Is it just done with 2 different "skins"
or settings that can be selected according to the device? Or can someone
really make a desktop program "touchable" without it looking ridiculous?
Of course you'd need many more details to really be able to answer this,
but generally speaking...?

Best Regards,
Laura

Comments

25 Jul 2007 - 1:12pm
ceciliacase
2007

At the company (www.tektronix.com) I work at, we create products that have
touchscreens that are options for the product. As such, the interfaces are
designed with touchscreens in mind (sizing, positioning, realising that an
onscreen keyboard is necessary for some functions) but all functions work
fine if you are using a mouse. It is not done with a skin, the interface is
just designed so that a finger could be the pointer as well as a mouse.

I personally think that having modes or skins for each wouldn't be the best
idea, and depending on what the program is, probably not necessary. You
would need to ask yourself, what functions require a different type of
layout per pointer type?

--
Cecilia
www.ceciliacase.com
www.flickr.com/photos/ceciliacase/

25 Jul 2007 - 1:22pm
Michael Micheletti
2006

Hi Laura, and welcome!

You can design applications to work with touch screens and with standard
mouse/keyboard input. There's a bit more to pay attention to, but here are
some starting points:

You'll want to understand how people will use the touch screens. Stylus?
Hands? Rubber Gloves? Fireman gloves in the dark? This will help you know
how big to make the individual controls.

You'll want to learn more about the capabilities of the devices your
software will be fielded on. Screen pixels and color depth are important to
know. You'll end up with fewer larger controls on the screen at any one
time.

You'll also need to know if an auxiliary keyboard and mouse will be
available, or if the application will be exclusively touch in a kiosk or
similar setting. If touch-only, will there be auxiliary buttons available on
the touchscreen itself? Or touchscreen-only? The buttons are often important
for multi-select or other special actions. If you end up developing a
touchscreen-only application on say a 1024x768 device with no auxiliary
button controls or keyboard, you'll may end up with many screens. With a
larger size monitor, a keyboard and mouse for infrequent actions, and menus
you may be able to show more at a time.

I have seen applications with large/medium/small controls for touchscreen
buttons (Cisco's IPICS does this) so that may be an option for you. But
multiple skins adds time and complexity. It is possible to create an
attractive touchscreen-capable application without multiple skins. Solid
design lead work towards understanding your app's target audience and their
needs is a good place to start. Hope this helps,

Michael Micheletti

On 7/25/07, Laura Valentino <laura.valentino at viasyshc.com> wrote:
>
> Now for my question...I've been asked to design an interface
> (translation: come up with a look and feel) for a medical database
> program which "may also be used on a touchscreen". They seem to have in
> mind that one interface can be used for both touchscreen and
> non-touchscreen devices. In my mind, these are 2 different things! Has
> anyone ever done this before? Is it just done with 2 different "skins"
> or settings that can be selected according to the device? Or can someone
> really make a desktop program "touchable" without it looking ridiculous?
> Of course you'd need many more details to really be able to answer this,
> but generally speaking...?
>

25 Jul 2007 - 1:30pm
Fred Beecher
2006

On 7/25/07, Laura Valentino <laura.valentino at viasyshc.com> wrote:
>
> program which "may also be used on a touchscreen". They seem to have in
> mind that one interface can be used for both touchscreen and
> non-touchscreen devices. In my mind, these are 2 different things! Has
> anyone ever done this before? Is it just done with 2 different "skins"
> or settings that can be selected according to the device? Or can someone
> really make a desktop program "touchable" without it looking ridiculous?
> Of course you'd need many more details to really be able to answer this,
> but generally speaking...?

Laura,

First thing, you need to work with the stakeholders to clarify the business
requirements. The phrase "may also be used" to me indicates that people who
are neither designers nor developers have been dreaming, which tends to be
dangerous. : ) Seriously though, without a defined set of goals that the
stakeholders of set, the project is doomed to failure. After all, how can
you meet goals that people have neither communicated nor agreed upon among
themselves?

Interaction design, usability, etc., isn't just about design. It's about
designing the right solution to solve a defined problem within an understood
context.

So, assuming your stakeholders really do have all their requirements
documented, I'll tackle your actual question. : )

One thing we've recently talked about on this list is designing for the
iPhone, and how Apple's guidelines for doing so suggest creating a separate
stylesheet to accommodate iPhone interactions that only users browsing on an
iPhone would see. With this stylesheet, links would be spaced further apart,
hover states would be excluded, etc. If you have the flexibility to design
this app for the Web rather than the desktop, this might be something to
explore.

However, you do need to define this touchscreen device first. Is it single
touch or multi-touch? If it's single touch is it intended to be used with a
finger or a stylus? Do people lose the styluses? The reality is that if it's
a single touch interface, it will be much easier to design for in that the
finger/stylus can really substitute for the mouse. The challenge, as it is
with the iPhone, is in designing for multi-touch. In that case, you'll
either need to go the two CSS route or do two separate interfaces, most
likely.

- Fred

Best Regards,
> Laura
>
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25 Jul 2007 - 1:37pm
Will Parker
2007

On Jul 25, 2007, at 10:27 AM, Laura Valentino wrote:

> Now for my question...I've been asked to design an interface
> (translation: come up with a look and feel) for a medical database
> program which "may also be used on a touchscreen". They seem to
> have in
> mind that one interface can be used for both touchscreen and
> non-touchscreen devices.

The first question to resolve is whether the presentation layer will
be displayed using the same fundamental technology.

For example, you'll face different problems if one of the two devices
is embodied as a native binary app using the standard UI controls
(and the UI assumptions of that OS) while the other is displayed as a
web page in a browser. It will be hard to keep visual design in sync
across fundamentally different display technologies -- and ultimately
counter-productive to do so.

Nevertheless, that _will_ be among the first "design" constraints
that will make it into the spec, because the project manager won't
know better (unless that's you).

The second question is whether there will a significant difference in
screen size between the two devices. If so, you'll want to retain the
general style and overall navigation map of the larger version, but
optimize content for the smaller screen.

- Will

Will Parker
wparker at ChannelingDesign.com

“I wish developing great products was as easy as writing a check. If
that were the case, then Microsoft would have great products.” -
Steve Jobs

26 Jul 2007 - 5:46am
Laura Valentino
2007

Wow, thanks to everyone for the helpful responses! You've brought up
some very good questions that I have yet to get the answers to, and I'm
better prepared for my meeting this afternoon. The requirements for this
project are not yet etched in stone, they basically want some designs
from me to get more user feedback. However, I do know that the
touchscreen will be used with finger, not stylus, so that will govern
the size of the clickable areas, and there will likely be no keyboard in
some cases. My main concern is if I design for touchscreen, I'm afraid
that the desktop users will get a clunky, oversized interface with no
scrollbars or other "normal" elements they are used to using. And worst
case scenario, a "halfway" interface that isn't nice for either.

I'd love to see some examples of interfaces that were designed both for
finger and mouse input!

Best Regards,
Laura

30 Jul 2007 - 5:34am
Laura Valentino
2007

Hi all,
I'm back from the weekend and notice that my reply to the list didn't
come through! Hopefully it will this time, I don't want you all to think
I'm ingrateful for the great replies I received. Many good points were
brought up, and I'm much better prepared to ask questions at my next
meeting.

My main concern was, and remains, that if I design for touchscreen, then
desktop users will get a clunky, oversized interface with no scrollbars
or other "normal" desktop conventions. I've since had it explained to me
that we are migrating towards designing for touchscreens in the future,
so the clickable capability is only a convenience for the present. (This
application has to be compatible with existing applications, some of
which are desktop style).

I'd still love to see some examples of interfaces that were designed
with both finger and mouse input in mind. The NY Times Reader example
was interesting, but some of the controls looked much too dainty for
finger control.

Thanks!

Best Regards,
Laura

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