What CAD and PLM vendors need to learn about mobile touch interface?

Mobile is fascinating these days. The growth rates are amazing. Learning from publicly available sources, the growth of mobile internet usage will outperform regular desktop and laptop traffic. So, we are clearly moving towards a mobile future. What does it mean for CAD and PLM vendors? They clearly don’t want to stay outside of the mobile excitement and join the party. The amount of mobile applications is growing. You can hardly find CAD / PDM / PLM vendor that didn’t join iPhone / iPad story these days. However, is it so simple to become mobile? I had a chance to post about it earlier -Mobile PLM gold-rush. Did vendors miss the point? The main conclusion I’ve made was simple: mobile won’t work "old fashion way". To come a say – we have product "A", but now we have a product "A-Mobile" doesn’t work. Vendors need to stop and think about specific apps that can improve productivity of people by using mobile devices in specific situation and scenarios.

Today, I want to talk about mobile and touch user experience. In my view, it is very related to the productivity. For the last 5 years, we’ve seen how touch UX revolution changed the whole mobile industry. One of the most lessons is about how to make an efficient user experience. Bad user experience can make mobile and touch story pretty much useless. This is what makes a difference. It is cool to say – yes we do touch and mobile. Most of the companies can say that these days. However, to make it practical and useful is another important step.

The following article caught my attention last week – Excerpt From The New Book "The Mobile Frontier" by Rachel Hinman. Navigate your browser to this article and have a read. Actually, I bought a book and find it very useful. I found some very interesting examples about how to design efficient touch user interfaces. The following passage outline the main problem developers can face when creating an efficient touch interface:

One of the key challenges of creating touch interfaces is ensuring they are… well, touchable. While touch interfaces enable more intuitive and direct manipulation of information, there are three important design considerations to take into account when creating a mobile touch UI: (1) Optimize for generous touch targets, (2) Map the screen for touch, (3) Lead with the content, not the interface.

Few pictures below from the article show you how sensitive can be optimization of user interface elements and touch interaction optimizations. It related to the screen size, positioning of controls and content. It is also different for smaller devices (like iPhone) and larger devices such as tablet computers (eg. iPad).

Another example (Flipboard) shows how important is the right choice of control placements.

What is my conclusion? Most of the vendors already made a first step by saying – yes, we can do mobile and touch applications. However, some of these apps can make customers quite disappointing. It is not an easy task to make people performance efficient when work on a touch device. This is a right time to move from "enabling" to "efficiency" for touch PLM. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Pictures credit to "The Mobile Frontier" book article.

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