Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from P-T » The Future of M-Interaction - INTRODUCTION, EVOLVING INTERACTION DESIGN FOR MOBILITY, Speech-Based Audio, Non-Speech Audio, CONCLUSION

THE COMPLEXITY OF DESIGNING INTERACTION FOR MOBILITY

mobile techniques desktop user

Despite the obvious disparity between desktop systems and mobile devices in terms of “traditional” input and output capabilities, the user interface designs of most mobile devices are based heavily on the tried-and-tested desktop design paradigm. Desktop user interface design originates from the fact that users are stationary—that is, seated at a desk—and can devote all or most of their attentional resources to the application with which they are interacting. Hence, the interfaces to desktop-based applications are typically very graphical (often very detailed) and use the standard keyboard and mouse to facilitate interaction. This has proven to be a very successful paradigm which has been enhanced by the availability of ever more sophisticated and increasingly larger displays.

Contrast this with mobile devices—for example, cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and wearable computers. Users of these devices are typically in motion when using their device. This means that they cannot devote all of their attentional resources—especially visual resources—to the application with which they are interacting; such resources must remain with their primary task, often for safety reasons (Brewster, 2002). Additionally, mobile devices have limited screen real estate and standard input and output capabilities are generally restricted. This makes designing mobile interaction (m-interaction) difficult and ineffective if we insist on adhering to the tried-and-tested desktop paradigm. Poor m-interaction design has thus far led to disenchantment with m-commerce applications: m-interaction that is found to be difficult results in wasted time, errors, and frustration that ultimately end in abandonment.

Unlike the design of interaction techniques for desktop applications, the design of m-interaction techniques has to address complex contextual concerns. Sarker and Wells (2003) identify three different modes of mobility—travelling, wandering, and visiting—which they suggest each motivate use patterns differently. Changing modality of mobility is actually more complex than simply the reason for being mobile: with mobility comes changes in several different contexts of use.

Most obviously, the physical context in which the user and technology is operating constantly changes as the user moves. This includes, for example, changes in ambient temperatures, lighting levels, noise levels, and privacy implications. Connected to changing physical context is the need to ensure that a user is able to safely navigate through his/her physical environment while interacting with the mobile technology. This may necessitate m-interaction techniques that are eyes-free and even hands-free. This is not a simple undertaking given that such techniques must be sufficiently robust to accommodate the imprecision inherent in performing a task while walking, for example.

Users’ m-interaction requirements also differ based on task context. Mobile users inherently exhibit multitasking behaviour which places two fundamental demands on m-interaction design: firstly, interaction techniques employed for one task must be sympathetic to the requirements of other tasks with which the user is actively involved—for instance, if an application is designed to be used in a motor vehicle, for obvious safety reasons, the m-interaction techniques used cannot divert attention from the user’s primary task of driving; secondly, the m-interaction technique that is appropriate for one task may be inappropriate for another task—so, unlike the desktop paradigm, we cannot adopt a one-technique-fits-all approach to m-interaction.

Finally, we must take the social context of use into account when designing m-interaction techniques; if we are to expect users to wear interaction components or use physical body motion to interact with mobile devices, at the very least we have to account for social acceptance of behaviour. In actual fact, the social considerations relating to use of mobile technology extend beyond behavioural issues; however, given the complexity of this aspect of technology adoption (it is a research area in its own right) it is beyond the immediate scope of this discussion. That said, it is important to note that technology that is not, at its inception, considered socially acceptable, can gain acceptability with usage thresholds and technological evolution—consider, for example, acceptance of cell phones.

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