Too deep navigation on mobile phones

25 Sep 2007 - 2:50am
6 years ago
11 replies
767 reads
John Grøtting
2006

I find the developments in the whole mobile space quite exciting, but
I can't get past one issue and I was hoping that some of our mobile
experts and other usability experts could add some depth to one
particular issue.

I have noticed that mobile phones have always had a series of
applications that one uses regularly and as we become accustomed to
our phones we learn the paths to our favorite tools. The mobile phone
seems to becoming more and more multipurpose. For years I had assumed
that as we developed more devices that these small widgets would
become more and more singular in focus and perhaps even multiply.
But, I can see the benefits of having small, portable devices with
multiple functions.

However, as the applications become more and more robust, I am
finding that the limited customization and increasingly deeper and
deeper navigation goes against the principals that make desktop
operating systems more and more task efficient. For example, the
German railway (Deutsche Bahn) has a nice application which I have
downloaded to my mobile phone, where I can download and check
schedules for any routes that they serve. It is a very practical tool
for anyone who travels a lot. However, when I want to pull up the
schedule for a train traveling from Frankfurt to Hamburg I first have
to unlock the phone and then go through 8 clicks in order to find
which track the train I want is departing from. Once I am done, I
then have to go through another 8 clicks to leave this application.

I don't see the functions of a desktop operating system where one can
have short cuts to data or applications placed wherever I want. I
also don't see an emergence of standards for building application
interfaces (this one is Java).

I haven't had the chance to test out a smart phone (or the iPhone)
yet, but from what I understand these more robust interfaces also
don't provide the kind of flexibility and standards that would help
us be more efficient.

So, my question is whether this is more of a limit of the physical
interface or the software interface? In this small display display
space and limited input capabilities, we are definitely restricted in
our interaction capabilities. The mouse + keyboard interaction just
doesn't exist for these small devices.

cheers,

John Grøtting

Grøtting + Sauter
Barnerstr. 14B
22765 Hamburg
Germany

Tel +49.40.398.34342
Fax +49.40.398.34340
Mobile +49.172.4246.976
www.g-s.de
g at g-s.de

Comments

25 Sep 2007 - 5:31am
Morten Hjerde
2007

Hi John
This is a tricky matter and there are many approaches to the deep navigation
problem.

One is the "Jared Spool-school of scent thinking" that says it is not a
problem at all if you do it the right way. The "scent of information", the
"odor of options", the "flatulence of features" will guide the user on his
way. The important point is that for each step the user must feel progress,
feel he is closing in. I'm very much in this camp.

But after using an application for a while - when the user has seen what is
on the other end - there is no sniffing, no sense of progress. Its just a
lot of clicks. If you want to support the memory-assistance use-case in
addition to starting a search from scratch (is "searching from scratch" a
valid english expression?) - there is no physical limitation on the mobile
phone for doing that.

I believe it is a matter of application maturity. If you look at some of the
better mobile phone OSes, they have a lot of short cuts and personalisation
options.

--
Morten Hjerde
http://sender11.typepad.com

25 Sep 2007 - 6:05am
Nancy Broden
2005

John -

Ease of navigation on mobile devices is increasingly made difficult by
"feature creep". I believe that in order to find solutions to the
problem what is needed is more radical thinking. Trying to extend the
current paradigm is not really going to work. Even the iPhone, from
which I am sending this email, does not provide the best model (it is
a good extension of the Apple OS to a mobile device but hardly
suitable for everyone).

What does offer promise are newer technologies such as uiOne and
Flashlite that allow UI designers the opportunity to explore new
paradigms and manufacturers and carriers the freedom to update the
customer's experience on the fly (at least, that's the hope).

- Nancy

nancy.Broden at gmail.com

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 25, 2007, at 9:50 AM, John Grøtting <g at g-s.de> wrote:

> I find the developments in the whole mobile space quite exciting, but
> I can't get past one issue and I was hoping that some of our mobile
> experts and other usability experts could add some depth to one
> particular issue.
>
> I have noticed that mobile phones have always had a series of
> applications that one uses regularly and as we become accustomed to
> our phones we learn the paths to our favorite tools. The mobile phone
> seems to becoming more and more multipurpose. For years I had assumed
> that as we developed more devices that these small widgets would
> become more and more singular in focus and perhaps even multiply.
> But, I can see the benefits of having small, portable devices with
> multiple functions.
>
> However, as the applications become more and more robust, I am
> finding that the limited customization and increasingly deeper and
> deeper navigation goes against the principals that make desktop
> operating systems more and more task efficient. For example, the
> German railway (Deutsche Bahn) has a nice application which I have
> downloaded to my mobile phone, where I can download and check
> schedules for any routes that they serve. It is a very practical tool
> for anyone who travels a lot. However, when I want to pull up the
> schedule for a train traveling from Frankfurt to Hamburg I first have
> to unlock the phone and then go through 8 clicks in order to find
> which track the train I want is departing from. Once I am done, I
> then have to go through another 8 clicks to leave this application.
>
> I don't see the functions of a desktop operating system where one can
> have short cuts to data or applications placed wherever I want. I
> also don't see an emergence of standards for building application
> interfaces (this one is Java).
>
> I haven't had the chance to test out a smart phone (or the iPhone)
> yet, but from what I understand these more robust interfaces also
> don't provide the kind of flexibility and standards that would help
> us be more efficient.
>
> So, my question is whether this is more of a limit of the physical
> interface or the software interface? In this small display display
> space and limited input capabilities, we are definitely restricted in
> our interaction capabilities. The mouse + keyboard interaction just
> doesn't exist for these small devices.
>
> cheers,
>
> John Grøtting
>
> Grøtting + Sauter
> Barnerstr. 14B
> 22765 Hamburg
> Germany
>
> Tel +49.40.398.34342
> Fax +49.40.398.34340
> Mobile +49.172.4246.976
> www.g-s.de
> g at g-s.de
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

25 Sep 2007 - 8:45am
Soo Basu
2005

Hi John
The context is one of the main things that influence the navigation.
I tend to give the user all the links he is likely to use in the context -
of course, there are some trade offs, as you don't want to have more than 5
- 6 navigation links on a screen.
There's also a rule of thumb I always use - the user should never be more
than 3 clicks away from a global menu page.
HTH,
Soo

--
"The details are not the details. They make the design' - Charles Eames
****************************************************************************
Soo Basu
Interaction Designer
****************************************************************************

25 Sep 2007 - 3:24pm
Will Parker
2007

On Sep 25, 2007, at 12:50 AM, John Grøtting wrote:

> For example, the German railway (Deutsche Bahn) has a nice
> application which I have downloaded to my mobile phone, where I
> can download and check schedules for any routes that they serve.
...
> I first have to unlock the phone and then go through 8 clicks in
> order to find which track the train I want is departing from. Once
> I am done, I
> then have to go through another 8 clicks to leave this application.

I'm curious. How many of the 8 clicks in and 8 clicks out are in the
Deutsche Bahn application, and how many are imposed by the phone's
operating system?

I can understand 8 clicks to get from the home screen for the phone
down to the data you require, but 8 clicks to get back to the
phone's home screen seems -- to be charitable -- very odd.

Will Parker
WParker at ChannelingDesign.com

25 Sep 2007 - 3:29pm
Markus Grupp-TM
2006

>> I can understand 8 clicks to get from the home screen for the phone down to the data you require, but 8 clicks to get
>> back to the phone's home screen seems -- to be charitable -- very odd.

Will, agreed. This is odd.

Why not simply hit the End (red) key to exit to the idle screen? This is the standard behaviour. One click. Even if the application displays a confirmation alert "Would you like to exit?", it's still only :-)

Markus

25 Sep 2007 - 3:51pm
Barbara Ballard
2005

On 9/25/07, Markus Grupp <Markus.Grupp at telus.com> wrote:
> Why not simply hit the End (red) key to exit to the idle screen? This is the standard behaviour. One click. Even if the application displays a confirmation alert "Would you like to exit?", it's still only :-)

One of my favorite stories from a recent usability test:

Barbara: "The application isn't yet finished. The End key doesn't work."
Developer: "Exit is in the application menu."
Barbara: "Ah, but users hit End to exit the application."
Developer: <look of shock>
User in next room: <presses End a few times; pokes around a little
bit; finally finds Exit>
Barbara: "That behavior is normal."
Developer: <opens laptop and fixes code>

I enjoy working with developers like this.

--
Barbara Ballard
barbara at littlespringsdesign.com 1-785-838-3003

26 Sep 2007 - 2:39am
John Grøtting
2006

The 4th click would open the Deutsche Bahn application.

John Grøtting

Grøtting + Sauter
Barnerstr. 14B
22765 Hamburg
Germany

Tel +49.40.398.34342
Fax +49.40.398.34340
Mobile +49.172.4246.976
www.g-s.de
g at g-s.de

On Sep 25, 2007, at 10:24 PM, Will Parker wrote:

>
> On Sep 25, 2007, at 12:50 AM, John Grøtting wrote:
>
>> For example, the German railway (Deutsche Bahn) has a nice
>> application which I have downloaded to my mobile phone, where I
>> can download and check schedules for any routes that they serve.
> ...
>> I first have to unlock the phone and then go through 8 clicks in
>> order to find which track the train I want is departing from.
>> Once I am done, I
>> then have to go through another 8 clicks to leave this application.
>
> I'm curious. How many of the 8 clicks in and 8 clicks out are in
> the Deutsche Bahn application, and how many are imposed by the
> phone's operating system?
>
> I can understand 8 clicks to get from the home screen for the phone
> down to the data you require, but 8 clicks to get back to the
> phone's home screen seems -- to be charitable -- very odd.
>
> Will Parker
> WParker at ChannelingDesign.com
>
>
>

26 Sep 2007 - 2:50am
John Grøtting
2006

I guess this gets back to my point of lack of standards for
interaction on mobile devices. I remember when the first Macintosh OS
Interface Guidelines came out years back. It was a wonderful way for
developers to quickly learn how to make certain tasks fit Apple
conventions and thereby making the overall usage of the OS much
easier. There were patterns for those who preferred using the mouse
for all interaction and patterns for those advanced users who wanted
to use only shortcuts. Have the developers of the mobile OS's also
developed such a interface guideline?

oh, there are 3 ways to exit the application from the deepest level.
1. clicking on a menu item (8 clicks) 2. Clicking the back button
(<-) will take you back part of the way, then you need to select quit
from the top level of the application. Then you can keep holding the
back button. This is still 8 clicks, but it is always the same. 3.
Clicking and holding the back button or end button brings a prompt to
exit the application. Then one needs to click and hold the back
button or end button again (2 clicks). Unlike desktop OSs, though,
these shortcuts aren't seen in the menus (in OS X, beside the Quit
item in the pulldown one sees the command+q hint). So, how do the OS
developers expect the users learn about these short cuts?

John Grøtting

Grøtting + Sauter
Barnerstr. 14B
22765 Hamburg
Germany

Tel +49.40.398.34342
Fax +49.40.398.34340
Mobile +49.172.4246.976
www.g-s.de
g at g-s.de

On Sep 25, 2007, at 10:29 PM, Markus Grupp wrote:

>
>>> I can understand 8 clicks to get from the home screen for the
>>> phone down to the data you require, but 8 clicks to get
>>> back to the phone's home screen seems -- to be charitable --
>>> very odd.
>
> Will, agreed. This is odd.
>
> Why not simply hit the End (red) key to exit to the idle screen?
> This is the standard behaviour. One click. Even if the
> application displays a confirmation alert "Would you like to
> exit?", it's still only :-)
>
> Markus

26 Sep 2007 - 9:42am
Nancy Broden
2005

Unlike the PC where the input and output are standardized (keyboard,
mouse, monitor) there are no standards for mobile hardware - some
devices have dedicated hardkeys for certain features such as music or
"end call", some have touchscreens, and there is every combination
between the two. Thus every manufacturer - Nokia, Sony Ericsson,
Motorola - has their "standard" for the portfolio of devices they
produce. Adding to the confusion, most wireless providers have their
own OS (at least in North America) which is generally layered on top
of the native OS. Every player in the mobile "value chain" has their
own reasons for wanting to own the UI. Until that changes we
shouldn't expect anything approaching the level of standardization
seen in the PC world.

- Nancy

nancy.Broden at gmail.com

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 26, 2007, at 9:50 AM, John Grøtting <g at g-s.de> wrote:

> Have the developers of the mobile OS's also
> developed such a interface guideline?
>>
>>
>>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
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26 Sep 2007 - 10:34am
Jack L. Moffett
2005

On Sep 26, 2007, at 10:42 AM, Nancy Broden wrote:

> Until that changes we shouldn't expect anything approaching the
> level of standardization seen in the PC world.

It seems to me the level of standardization in the PC world is
largely due to three things:

1. Microsoft's near monopoly
2. Apple's closed platform
3. Microsoft's tendency to copy off of Apple (and the reverse, to a
much smaller degree)

As Nancy points out, the cell phone space is a much different picture.

Jack L. Moffett
Interaction Designer
inmedius
412.459.0310 x219
http://www.inmedius.com

Questions about whether design
is necessary or affordable
are quite beside the point:
design is inevitable.

The alternative to good design
is bad design, not no design at all.

- Douglas Martin

26 Sep 2007 - 11:58am
John Grøtting
2006

Are there any statistics that speak to trends about OSs on mobile
phones? Are the smart phones gaining territory?

John Grøtting

Grøtting + Sauter
Barnerstr. 14B
22765 Hamburg
Germany

Tel +49.40.398.34342
Fax +49.40.398.34340
Mobile +49.172.4246.976
www.g-s.de
g at g-s.de

On Sep 26, 2007, at 5:34 PM, Jack Moffett wrote:

>
> On Sep 26, 2007, at 10:42 AM, Nancy Broden wrote:
>
>> Until that changes we shouldn't expect anything approaching the
>> level of standardization seen in the PC world.
>
> It seems to me the level of standardization in the PC world is
> largely due to three things:
>
> 1. Microsoft's near monopoly
> 2. Apple's closed platform
> 3. Microsoft's tendency to copy off of Apple (and the reverse, to a
> much smaller degree)
>
> As Nancy points out, the cell phone space is a much different picture.
>
>
> Jack L. Moffett
> Interaction Designer
> inmedius
> 412.459.0310 x219
> http://www.inmedius.com
>
>
> Questions about whether design
> is necessary or affordable
> are quite beside the point:
> design is inevitable.
>
> The alternative to good design
> is bad design, not no design at all.
>
> - Douglas Martin
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

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