Touch screen devices quickly have become the standard as consumers expect to be able to interact with everything from mobile devices to their automobiles with the touch of a finger. However, not all touch-screen interfaces are equal, as some are much more responsive and effective than others. Product designers and user interface engineers must meet and exceed consumer expectations with their touch-screen interfaces if they are to beat the competition. Of course, there are many considerations to weigh when it comes to designing the most effective touch-screen interface for a device or application. Here’s a look at three of the most critical factors to integrate into the design and development process for an effective touch-screen UI:
- Keep the consumers’ needs and preferences in mind
- Design with the size of the touch screen in mind
- Avoid giving users too many options and causing confusion
Keep the Consumers’ Needs and Preferences in Mind
Whether designing a mobile device or other small product with a touch screen, product designers and user interface engineers must keep consumers’ needs and preferences in mind. First, the most important and frequently used elements must be large enough for users to press without touching a nearby element. Consumers quickly become frustrated when they cannot get a touchable element to respond to their touch because they inadvertently press two at one time or cannot get their finger positioned properly to press an element that is too small. One of the best ways to ensure your touch-screen interface lives up to consumers’ expectations is to gather feedback from testing.
Users of touch screens often prefer some sort of feedback when they press a button. Thus, haptic-feedback touch screens provide sensory feedback with a buzz, vibration, or click. Designing touch-screen interfaces that provide feedback without activating is one way to enhance the user experience and exceed consumers’ expectations; it also more than satisfies their desire to navigate a touchscreen without dealing with the hassle of an accidental button press.
For example, Bosch’s haptic touch screen, Neosense, made an impressive showing at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show because of its ability to allow users to feel the screen and detect buttons and controls without activating them, thus reducing accidental button presses. Other product designers and user interface engineers can look to Neosense as a model for pressure-sensitive sensors that differentiate between hands seeking for buttons and fingers intentionally pressing buttons.
Design with the Size of the Touch Screen in Mind
Consumers using a mobile screen will have a very different touch-screen experience than those using very large touch screens on kiosks or large pieces of equipment. Product designers and user interface engineers need to keep in mind the different ways in which users interact with screens of various sizes and design the user interface with the size of the touch screen in mind.
Large touch screens, for example, often have such a large field of view that users cannot take in the entire screen with one look; rather, they must move their necks and heads and adjust the angle of their eyes to see each part of the interface. This means that designers and user interface engineers should pay particular attention to element placement and ensure the elements are easier to find on the screen. Dorothy Shamonsky, lead UX designer for ViewPoint, explains: “So the designer has a different challenge with large screens than with small screens, which is to make interface elements noticeable, without being obnoxious.”
Another challenge with designing effective touch-screen interfaces for large screens is signaling to people that the screens are meant to be touched. Many people do not realize that large touch screens mounted on walls are touch enabled because they look like television screens. It is helpful to position the display at a 45-degree angle on the wall with the top leaning toward the wall and the bottom welcoming the user to touch it.
Finally, to design an effective touch-screen interface for screens of any size, make sure the touchable elements are proportionate to the size of the screen itself. Small screens naturally fill up quickly because there is not much room for elements, but large screens also fill up quickly when the elements are too large. A good rule of thumb is to avoid clutter and keep in mind the ratio of content to other UI elements.
Avoid Giving Users Too Many Options and Causing Confusion
When designing touch-screen interfaces, you can avoid clutter by limiting the number of options presented to users on a single screen. Not only does offering too many options confuse users, but it also hinders you from including an adequate explanation of each step and results in making users think more than they should when interacting with your touch screen. Using your touch-screen interface should be as intuitive as possible, and users will have a poor experience if they have to stop and think about the options being presented to them.
The goal is to create a streamlined touch-screen interface that welcomes users and permits them to complete a task as quickly and easily as possible. Users should not require assistance from a human to use your touch-screen interface, and they should not become confused or frustrated while using it because you gave them too many options (and too much clutter) on each screen.
Designing an effective touch-screen interface is a process that product designers and user interface engineers should not take lightly. To deliver a positive user experience, it is important to keep consumers’ needs and preferences in mind, design with the size of the touch screen in mind, and avoid giving users too many options and causing confusion.