Monday, June 06, 2011

The trouble with mobile user interfaces

Mobile user interfaces are a major trend in business intelligence. We read a constant stream of announcements by vendors about their support for mobile BI, even if the actual success stories are less common. I commented on business intelligence and the iPad here.

Timo Elliot made some interesting remarks about how mobile BI could have an affect beyond mobile, and this is my reply:

It should be pretty obvious to most people by this time that mobile user interfaces are going to play a major role in the future of computing. That is because the mobile user experience can never be reproduced. The question is how big a role.

But however big the role, this doesn't necessarily mean that graphic user interface design will be completely changed by mobile devices. Mobile interfaces aren't just new, they are also subject to completely different constraints than desktop systems are.

  • Pointing with your finger can be seen as a much more natural user interface that using a mouse, but it is also less accurate.
  • Simple interfaces fit small screens well, but the give users fewer clues as to what they can do next.
And so on. The user interface guidelines that have been developed for desktop systems still make sense, and as a result my guess is that mobile devices will not change desktop interface designs all that much.

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