This area is dedicated to UI design and a few of the prototypes I have put together for either Usability testing or general proof of concept.
Stinger Interaction and Usability
Client: Microsoft - Consumer Appliance Group
Explore the interaction and usability of a calendar application on a cellular telephone, without having devices capable of running the software. Collect useful and relevant data from the prototypes through usability testing.
Today I could easily put a prototype together in Flash, load it onto the device and hand it over for testing in the usability lab. Then however, there were no devices capable of running Flash, and this was for Microsoft’s first effort into the cellular world.

This prototype explored the use of a “Directional Pad”, “Soft Keys”, and a “Back” button as the primary methods of navigation. I tried a few “Hard” button solutions where there was always a “Home” or “Start” button, and in the end having a dedicated button for “Start” proved very useful. The “Soft Key” option turned out to be one of the best features and even now it is a major UI element to many mobile devices.

This version of the prototype used a huge hand cursor, which was my third version of the huge hand on screen buttons. The hand seemed to suggest a little more realism than a simple arrow, but there was a lot of frustration and amusement in the usability lab watching people fumble around the buttons with the first completely opaque hand. Without being able to feel the button depress, neither I nor the users could tell if their clicks were successful, or what they were clicking. For the second huge hand I made the fill translucent. This helped a great deal, but it was still hard for users to find the hot spot of the cursor. For the final version, I added the dot in the index finger, and for users who were familiar with the use of a mouse, there was never another problem fumbling around the buttons.

I explored a lot of hardware devices and input styles as I built the usability prototypes. We wanted to gain the greatest user control without an overwhelming number of buttons. Jog-dials – similar to the wheel on most PC mice; scroll up, scroll down and enter – worked great for navigating vertical lists of data or selections and was really fast, but we also wanted to scroll horizontally. This would have required an “Alt” type key to change the direction of the focus cursor and proved way too cumbersome. Touch would have been one of the best choices for usability, but that was way beyond what the OEMs were willing to consider. Even today there are many cellular devices that do not have a touchable screen.

We received a lot of pushback from the OEMs because we wanted to use 8 bit color. The majority of the cellular manufacturers insisted the cost of a color LCD screen was prohibitive to getting a device into the market at a price consumers would actually pay. Now we’d laugh at a black and white phone screen, but it was an issue as we tried to get Windows CE into the industry.

From here it’s on to multi-touch and thought controlled input with unlimited storage over a constant wireless connection at speeds fast enough to feel as if the data is on the device.

Click to run this ancient Director EXE

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