Students are going back to school soon and it seems that the back-to-school sales are in full swing. According to a Pricegrabber.com survey conducted between May 22, 2012 and June 5, 2012 students looking at new technology were nearly tied in considering a new laptop (50%) and a new tablet (49%). Other sources seem to corroborate this trend toward tablets in recent years as well. The Forrester (2011), for one, estimates tablets will exceed laptops in sales in the near future. For user interface designers, this is a figure that they should be cognizant of, especially when they consider designing app and wireframes. This is because the needs of users with tablets are different than the needs of users with laptops, and thereby necessitate a change in the user interface design.
Going retro in user interface design?
One example of this need for change in user interface design can be seen with the common student practice of taking notes. It would be less common to hear a request for a handwritten note-taking program for a laptop, since the easily accessible keyboard facilitates note-taking. But apparently this kind of app is in high demand for tablet users. It is in some ways friendlier to traditional note-taking patterns since the tablet is similar to a “note-book” with paper. Some universities, such as North Carolina State, even have these handwritten note-taking apps listed as highly recommended for their students and faculty. The user interface design for a tablet itself is friendlier toward handwritten notes using a stylus, whereas the user interface design for laptops cater more toward typing.
What is user interface design
At this point the reader may be wondering, “What is user interface design exactly?” In a simplistic sense, user interface design is a visual interface that a person uses to operate a system. This system could be computer software or a video game. So when designing the user interface design of a games keyboard, a designer must consider “What does the user have to push or pull to make the system work?” User interface design must also consider what is feasible for the user. To click every key on a keyboard at the same time just to perform one task may be a bit difficult to accomplish, thus the user interface design must also be “easy to use”. Usability experts and designers labor over making the look and feel of their user interface designs adequate for their users’ needs. They will often perform usability testing on the user interface design to ascertain how usable it is for their target audience.
Designing user interface designs for the future
With more people considering tablets, there will be more demand for suitable apps – some note taking devices are tablet-provider specific, which limits the app supply on one side while perhaps raising the tablet prestige on the other. If you want to design your own apps, consider the device you will create it for before beginning to outline the user interface design. Crafting a wireframe draft is also sometimes helpful for testing these mockup designs. Put yourself in the position of your user. It may be that old school is the best school when it comes to user interface designs.
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