Monthly Archives: April 2001

More on mobile phone design, usability and business success

Frank Gaine mailed this to the London Usability mailing list today
which has a little heuristic evaluation to back up some of the opinion
pieces on mobile phone UI success transalting to business success that
have been in the press recently.

“The mobile phone is an example of an interface whose use is very
visible in everyday life. Unlike other interfaces, issues relating to
mobile phones frequently pop up in conversation. People discuss the
tariff that they have subscribed to, phone accessories, ring tones
and, without knowing it, the usability of phones. How many times have
you been frustrated when you’ve had to use a friend’s mobile phone -
activating the keypad, sending an sms, even ending the call cause
problems. How many times have you or your friends complained about
not being able to remember where functions are located, such as
reviewing missed calls and adding a name to the phone book ? People’s
perception of ‘user-friendliness’ certainly impacts on the choice of
ones first and subsequent mobile phones. Nokia’s user-centred
approach can only serve to perpetuate their position as the world’s
leading maker of mobile phones going forward.”

Usability Evaluation Rates Nokia 3210 Above Siemens C25

Good design not a ‘nice-to-have’
It’s being highlighted as a survival issue for cellular handset manfacturers and cellular network providers in the UK media.

“The networks are looking at how much revenue they are
making from each handset,” says Rockman. “They will know that they make
more money from a Nokia [usable] phone than from another model. It may
be a very small amount per user, but you are dealing with very large
numbers of people.”


“OK, I’m just going to come right out and say it: Ericsson lost $2.3bn
on mobile phone handsets last year because its products are ugly. We
all know it, but are too polite to say so. So instead we talk about
poor market segmentation, or excessive costs, or a slow product cycle.
All true; but if the handsets had been prettier, these would have been
merely glitches.”

The FT article is a little off-base in my opinion,
especially when the writer refers to palmpilots, but makes good points
about the initimate and emotional nature of design for personal
technology. | Ericsson in the ugly business

BBC News | UK | Secrets of good phones

The case for plastic pages

In the past I have done a number of websites with page-layouts that
establish themselves at a fixed width, usualy for reasons of
development time, and I supposed [I admit I did minimal research], ease
of reading. Here’s some interesting research about reading on screen
which has made me rethink…

An experimental investigation of the effects of line length, document height and number of columns when reading from screen

Social networks, web-as-brain, and ‘emergent’ infomation architecture

Ooohh – this pushed pretty much all my buttons… again, from today’s tomalak’s realm

“Some scientists argue that the structure of the Web
mirrors the organization of human and animal brains. The brain’s
architecture, a highly connected network of neurons joined by synapses,
is responsible for important functions such as perceptions, learning,
etc. The basic idea is that Web pages act as neurons and hypertext
links act as synapses. Web pages exist in complex patterns and
hypertext links direct the flow of information from one page to the

Transforming information retrieval on the Web: a new direction

Poetic Programming

This reads like a retread of ‘e-services’, asp’s or one of the
other ‘software-on-demand’ visions of the world that have done the
rounds of the last few years. But this article has some nice
turns-of-phrase and take on why this model of software development and
deployment should be driven from the need to reduce complexity rather than any other motivating factor.

“Writing code, he explains, is like writing poetry: every word, each
placement counts. Except that software is harder, because digital poems can
have millions of lines which are all somehow interconnected. Try fixing
programming errors, known as bugs, and you often introduce new ones. So far,
he laments, nobody has found a silver bullet to kill the beast of

The Economist: April 12th 2001


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