One intriguing aspect of designing for direct multitouch devices is the re-introduction of skeuomorphic interface designs. In desktop applications, it’s a major faux pas to force a user to control a pictures of real life objects via a mouse. Dragging a phone “handset” off its virtual “hook” to answer a call would be simply ludicrous, yet there are still many desktop interfaces that let you slowly aim and click, aim and click, aim and click… to dial numbers via your trackpad.
On a touch-controlled device, Fitt’s Law doesn’t apply and users can use more “natural” motor skills to quickly interact with virtual devices. (I learned this years ago when I totally dominated playing a PocketPC port of Missile Command with the help of a stylus: like swatting reeeeeeeally slow flies.) A touch screen provides a strong temptation to fall for pre-computer/tactile metaphors, but there’s an offensive discord between Apple’s visually efficient hardware design and their woodgrain sticker interface guidelines.
While the iPhone’s infamous Notes application — the poster child of froofy-faux-foo-fah — doesn’t actually bother me (much), my preference and my goal is to see new affordances developed specifically for the plane pane of touch screens. The flat aesthetic of the physics papers web may actually be the right one for these Safari Pads and Mini Safari Pads.
A brief pause so we can all recoil at the spectre of this Nielsenesque future.
Now hypertext, despite its high-dimensionality and familiarity, may not be the most appropriate model for all interface design: its foundation on resource statelessness can make users themselves feel like the state machine. We most certainly shouldn’t shy away from native applications from a design perspective (ignoring anti-competitive censorship or other platform limitations that may discourage use of a proper framework for stateful app creation). We do need to shy away from letting the visual accoutrement of old building materials clutter our thinking and our available screen space. Don’t let the past crowd out the possible.
I’d encourage you to read Designing for the iPad. It simply calls skeuomorphism “kitsch”, thus leaving more syllables over for dealing with all the practical concerns ignored by this post.