Thursday Aug 05, 2010

iPad: Natural Gestures and the Global Skills Needed for Design

I previously talked about the natural user interface (NUI) on the iPad and discussed some of the key aspects, as well explained by my colleague John Cartan on the usableapps blog.

Yesterday, on the personal front, I met with folks from Tethras and Sparkle Apps (the creators of the Jigsaw Box iPad app) at the Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin. Amongst other things, we discussed the NUI of the iPad and discussed the natural gesture approach and what it meant for developers. There are some excellent Apple-provided UX guidelines for use, but, it would seem to me for a large pool of developers to take full advantage of the possibilities of the NUI, more detailed usage guidelines on how these gestures fit into the UX are needed.

And then, of course, there are the international considerations of gestures. Gestures need to be used appropriately of course, but some of these might even be considered quite rude, depending on perspective (use of hand gestures can be a nightmare for localization). What an interesting research area!

By the way, if you haven't got Jigsaw Box on your iPad, you're missing out on a great game experience. And it's now in seven languages. Great job! And watch out for more in the mobile app localization (that's translation to you) space from the Tethras folks real soon. Great to see the Irish making such an impact on the global mobile app market.

Thursday Jul 15, 2010

Authoring Tools on the iPad

Just a thought, but when might we see the emergence of powerful user assistance authoring tools on the iPad itself? Arbortext, Word, Framemaker and so on, and even online equivalents such as Google Docs, all revolve around a desktop paradigm of menu driven options such as File Open, Save, Print, and so on, and traditional user assistance content processes of creating a file or object, saving it, and then publishing or printing.

Will the user assistance community move to the iPad as a possible authoring platform? For on-the-spot, agile, Natural UI-based responses to issues that require content to be created and posted? My team could already run our Arbortext Editor deployment on the Mac (through remote desktop clients, natch) if we needed (though our main supported platform is for authors is Windows with the software running on a Linux server).

I wonder if iPad-based tools, which allowed the creation of NUI-integrated assistance (perhaps emulator style) as well as traditional media (searchable, XML-based, demos, and so on) could move the user assistance community forward in ways they never imagined only a few months ago?

Natural User Assistance

Everyone should read my Apps-UX colleague John Cartan's usableapps piece called "iPad's Natural User Interface at Work". Excellent analysis. Look at the key messages about the Natural User Interace (NUI):

"A NUI is an interface that lets people use their natural behaviors to interact directly with information. I find that NUIs have four defining characteristics: 1. Direct, natural input 2. Realistic, real-time output 3. Content, not chrome 4. Immediate consequences"

Now, what might that mean for user assistance (UA) on the iPad or other NUI-driven devices. It really is the end for the WTF messages, RTFM and F1 online help model for sure! For one thing it means leveraging device capabilities as well as natural human inputs.

Could we be on the cusp of a UA paradigm where scratching or shaking your head indicates a need for assistance, and where we have the device responding immediately with a concierge telling the user what to do when the user screams in frustration? How about error messages? Perhaps we will see better use of audio, rich content or tactile potential as immediate problem solvers here; accommodating the emotional need of the user while being persuasive about how to proceed.

The potential for helping users complete interactions 'naturally' is tremendous. Pretty much I think the iPad and NUI will bring about a change in the concept of user assistance as radically as the rest of the applications. And another point, perhaps consider how the iPad may be a UA device in itself for support analysts, user group and community managers, in-field technicians, implementers, and so on? Lots of potential there, which I will return to.

Exciting possibilities we'll be researching up on.

Tuesday Apr 13, 2010

iPad and User Assistance

What possibilities does the iPad over for user assistance in the enterprise space? We will research the possibilities but I can see a number of possibilities already for remote workers who need access to trouble-shooting information on-site, implementers who need reference information and diagrams, business analysts or technical users accessing reports and dashboards for metrics or issues, functional users who need org charts and other data visualizations, and so on. It could also open up more possibilities for collaborative problem solving.

User assistance content can take advantage of the device's superb display, graphics capability, connectivity, and long battery life. The possibility of opening up more innovative user assistance (UA) solutions (such as the opportunities afforded by the natural UI or maximizing graphical UA possibilities like comics) is an exciting one for everyone in the UX space. Aligned to this possibility we need to research how users would use the device as they work.


Oracle applications user experience (UX) assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps community, helping to design and deliver usable apps.


Ultan Ó Broin. Director, Global Applications User Experience, Oracle Corporation. On Twitter: @ultan

See my other Oracle blog about product globalization too: Not Lost in Translation

Interests: User experience (UX), user centered design, design patterns, tailoring, BYOD, dev relations, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW and ADF, and a lot more.


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