Monday, November 26, 2012

Usability problem of the day (iPhone scrollbar)

In the courses I teach about human-computer interaction, I typically open each class with an example of a usability problem. I'm putting these online, in case others find them useful.

Here are two screenshots of the Settings app on my iPhone, from a couple of years ago.

Notice the dark gray scrollbar on the right of the first screenshot, indicating that more information is available with a downward swipe action. In the second screenshot, the scrollbar has faded away.

Now think about the context in which you typically use a mobile phone. Are you looking at the display the entire time? Not always. In this case, if you happen to look away from the phone for half a second, you might not see the scrollbar before it disappears. And the display is laid out so that there are no other visual cues about further settings being possible to access.

I can use this example in a few different contexts:
  • To highlight a new-user perspective on the use of a device.
  • To emphasize the importance of providing information to users about the state the system is in and what it's possible to do in that state.
  • To observe that a cool effect doesn't always improve a system's usability.
  • To open a discussion of differences between mobile and desktop/laptop applications: the mobile scrollbar is simply a visual indicator; it's not interactive in the way a traditional scrollbar is.
  • To open a discussion of visual affordances.

1 comment:

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