It’s 2013 and a few things have become apparent. Web technology has become somewhat homogenized. I don’t mean this in a negative way, it was inevitable that web standards would become more, ‘standard’ and that apps and tools have become widely available to the point where you rarely have to build anything from scratch.
Thanks to the surge in app development driven by mobile devices and the wide adoption of HTML5, it is easier than ever to architect a solution made up of components that work well together. UX designers, planners and developers have never had it so easy.
So what now? Web UX is at it’s peak. Most web UX folks are specializing more and more in the mobile space (including yours truly) as a natural progression to the next wave of technology and guess what? It’s kind of not mobile…
Mobile will still be at the center of the solutions we build, because we still need to need some manual control over what we do. Websites and – even applications are stupid. They don’t have any sort of real intelligence, they are either meant to display content and data, run a search or perform a defined set of functions. Sometimes you have a few algorithms that feign intelligence but for the most part, we, as users, still need to input data in the right places to make things work.
The next wave of UX will be outside the box (literally). I’ve been saying this for years. back in 2005, everyone sort of just looked at me like I was mad. It won’t be so focused on display technology. Instead the focus will be on artificial intelligence or sophisticated programs that reduce the amount of data we need to input.
A great example of where this is happening can now be seen in iphone apps that interface with your home thermostat, so you can adjust your heating and cooling settings remotely. Smartphones can start cars, act as your PVR remote and there are countless more apps that integrate into your environment. Next up, apps that can predict or respond to changes in situations so all you really need to do is monitor via your mobile device.
This is the era of appliance technology – meets mobile technology – meets data from the web and the user. The beginnings of affordable home automation and control over our environments through a central mobile device.
Are you ready for the next wave of job titles? Environmental Experience! Not UX but EX. Okay, we can still call it UX if you like – because there will always be a user. The focus will shift from your on-screen experience to what’s going on in your environment.
Your canvas: a real-world space – The palette: intelligent personal assistants (SIRI will get smarter – don’t worry), refrigerators that do cool stuff (other cool stuff), washing machines that can get the laundry going when you’re not there, beverage machines that will make anything you want, even ‘Tea, Earl-Grey, Hot’ before you get out of bed.
DONT PANIC! Unless you really can’t let go of your wireframes and figure out how to architect this environment. Oh Yes, as an EX or UX professional, you will need to be more cognizant of technology in order to use this new palette. You’ll need to know what component works with the latest artificial intelligence and which brand appliances will work together, while driving towards the goal of less data input from the user (less work).
If that isn’t mind boggling enough, you will need to factor-in personal robotic assistants – in about ten to fifteen years. They might cost as much as a car but everyone will want one. They will be the new iPhone of 2028.
Architecting this will be fun and super exciting. You will be profiling users and coming up with better ways to create archetypes for these new spaces. Beyond that, it will be pulling the respective pieces together that result in an enjoyable, easy to use environment rather than a more complicated frustrating one.
And of course, there will always be user testing – lots and lots of user testing.
If you’re in the market for a tablet this holiday season or if you want to buy one as gift for that special someone, there are a myriad of choices. It can be daunting with so many features and prices ranging wildly.
There is no way I can cover all the options in this post but I thought I would narrow it down to a top three list to perhaps make it a bit easier for prospective shoppers. To make it fair, I’m sticking to the 7” variety of tablet because this format appeals to a larger mass market versus their 10” counterparts.
This is not an in-depth review, rather I am reviewing each as a prospective buyer while comparing tablets in-store. The elevator pitch for each tablet will be evaluated based on how easy or fun it is to use in the first 3 minutes of trying it out.
- Display: 7-inch multi-touch display with IPS (In-Plane Switching) LCD technology
- Operating System: An Open source (forked) version of Android Gingerbread
- Connectivity: 802.11n WiFi and USB 2.0, and 4G version
- Storage: 8GB
- Processor: Texas Instruments’ dual-core 1.5GHz CPU
- Price: $159 – $199
- Application capabilities: web browsing, email, video streaming, e-books
- My UX Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Amazon, along with most of their major competitors, is morphing their e-readers into tablets and for good reason. Tablets are coming down in price and e-readers will most likely disappear or become endangered species in the next two years.
The Kindle fire is the best selling android tablet in it’s price category. It’s persistent functions and buttons are intuitive and placed where you would expect them to be.
For it’s price, it’s pretty fast and powerful, able to handle web browsing, video streaming and offers a nice display for magazines and books.
If you are shopping for an avid reader who enjoys having the cross-function of web and email, the Kindle Fire is a solid choice.
- Display: 7.0″ WSVGA
- Operating System: Android 3.2 Honeycomb
- Connectivity: Wi Fi 802.11 b/g/n, USB 2.0 and Bluetooth 3.0
- Storage: 32 GB
- Processor: RAM: 592MB, ROM: 512MB – C110, 1GHz, Cortex A8 Hummingbird Application
- Price: $249 – $288 – depending on the retailer
- Application capabilities: web browsing, email, video streaming, e-books, camera, video recording
- My UX Rating: 4 out of 5
This is probably the best Galaxy tab yet. I have never been a big fan of the galaxy but I think they finally hit a home run with this version. It was pretty easy to get into with the persistent button placement making it intuitive to jump in and out of tasks. I see this as being the best choice for business travelers this year with its solid email capabilities and powerful hardware features. I know users who have stopped lugging their laptops to the airport in favor of doing everything right on this device.
It does a lot more than you would expect a tablet to do – maybe more than the average user needs. The price on the Galaxy Tab varies and to be honest, I’m still trying to figure out why. Overall, it gives you probably the most muscle for your dollar, even at the higher price point.
3. iPad Mini
- Display: 7.9‑inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology
- Operating System: IOS 6
- Connectivity: Wi Fi 802.11n 2.4 GHZ, lightening to USB, Bluetooth 4.0 (3g/4g lte cellular available)
- Storage: 16, 32 and 64 GB models
- Processor: Dual-core A5
- Price: $329 (16GB), $429 (32GB), $529 (64GB) – WiFi
- Application capabilities: web browsing, email, video streaming, e-books, camera, video recording, IOS Apps
- My UX Rating: 5 out of 5
“You already know how to use it”, Steve Jobs once said when unveiling the first iPad. I would say in the realm of marketing statements, this one is true. Apple’s IOS is one of the most user-friendly GUI ever designed. All the features you need, none of the ones you don’t.
Power-users who love spending hours customizing their experience may not agree but if we’re talking about a mass market and mass-adoption, the iPad is still pretty hard to beat. Within 30 seconds, you’re discovering everything that matters to you. When you have more time on your hands, you have the app store with the world’s most popular apps available.
Simplicity is the key: Keeping user options to a minimum has always been the hallmark of Apple’s hardware and IOS symbiosis. Something Android needs to learn how to do as an option.
Machine learning on IOS isn’t quite there yet but Siri has a large role to play in moving in that direction. Even on WiFi, Siri is finding restaurants checking weather and running searches – just as she would on my iPhone.
For most users, its about the apps. People choose iPads because they can have the best selection of apps. The mini is $129 more than both the Kindle Fire and the Kobo Arc (16GB models) but when you test drive it, you will know where those extra dollars went – better usablity.
If you love someone….
The winner in this review is of course, the iPad mini. If you love the person you’re buying a tablet for, this is the one to invest in. As I said, its a little higher in price than you might be willing to spend on a 7- inch tablet but it packs a lot of value into a small package.
I think back to when I bought my first iPad, which I paid over $600 for – and it didn’t have half the power and capabilities the mini has. I recently bought the mini and spent an evening watching a movie on it (Master and Commander: The far side of the World). After about 15 minutes, I completely forgot about the size of the device and was enjoying the movie as much if not more than I did on my 10-inch iPad.
This last instalment on filtering is more about keeping content fresh rather than filtering, although fresh content gives us the opportunity of creating new tags and new ways of cross-referencing content.
When a user returns to a favourite section or page, they expect to see new or updated content. In Filtering Part 3, I talked about grouping stories or articles under a topic or category tag to extend the user journey and avoid dead-ends. In order to do this, fresh content always needs to be connected to a category or topic. Although an article might seem like a one-off in a particular section, it should have relevance to content that has been previously posted. This ensures that there is more than one user path to fresh content. On index pages or section pages, it is important to emphasize fresh content. On deeper level pages, it is important to relate fresh content to recent or archived articles.
Using fresh content as building blocks is also important. An example of using fresh content as building block would be using Geo-tags. Geo-tagging offers another avenue for building relevant aggregate pages with a mix of new, recent and archived content, brought together under a hyper-local focus.
An article about a new car dealership will be relevant in the auto section of the newspaper and may have no further relevance to any other stories. Using geo-tags, however, would make it relevant to stories and events in the area where the car dealership is located. This is just one way to ensure that all articles are a part of something, not just arbitrarily linked. Human intervention plays a part here too.
While relevant content is great for the search engines, you need to consider the flavour of the content being displayed. A machine process really can’t do this for you. If you take the car dealership example above, you may not want to relate that content via geo-tags to a story about a robbery that happened down the street. Consider your audience.
Well, that’s my four-part rant on filtering. I’ll keep sharing more insights on the topic as I discover new and creative ways to filter and change the flavour of content online.