The Race to Touch
I admit it, I’m kind of obsessed with the iPad right now. Forget the fact that it’s a foxy little gadget. I’m obsessed with this paradigm shift to the touch interface. This reach out and touch the internet thing. Yes, Apple is more guilty of wild hyperbole than most, but it’s claims that this product is revolutionary are undeniable. We are now computing with our fingers, folks. They are not the first to do it, but they are the first to do it right. It is time to reevaluate how we use our computers. The Apple vs. Adobe row is bringing a lot of things to light. Some even related to design! Can we live in a world without mouseovers?
Flash design is a rich affair where the user accesses web content through beautiful menus and animated graphics. Among the many techniques employed is the use of mouseovers. A surfer puts their mouse… over buttons on a web site and other actions are triggered. Additional information is usually presented, such as a drop-down menu. Or maybe a new window is popped up. All without clicking. A truly novel way of doing things. And it’s been a ubiquitous part of the browser user experience (UX) for more than a decade.
But mouseover and hover actions don’t work with touch interface. You do not have a mouse pointer to hover over buttons, you have a dirty finger. There have been suggestions to replicate the behavior, like a “finger-aware” screen that can tell if you’re about to touch the screen. But for now, the functionality is simply not possible. Acceptance of touch UI means design principles like these will have to change or risk being left in the dust. Why would design be dictating what devices we buy or how we consume media? Shouldn’t designers be figuring out how to use this new method in beautiful and creative new ways?
The iPad is a really futuristic device. If you’re a professional/power user, a mouse and keyboard still work best. If you’re a media consumer/communicator, which I think most people are, the touch UI is way more fun, intuitive, and powerful. So why not embrace the future? If not with Apple, than with someone else. But embrace it no?