Stylus and finger friendly UIs

Posted on 2010-02-14 11:36 UTC by Tom Tanner. Status: Under consideration, Categories: Desktop, User Experience.

The N900 has a high-resolution (800x480 on 3,7") and a very accurate, high-precision resistive touchscreen. This makes it possible to draw with fine detail, write, select, or press small buttons on the screen using the stylus of the N900. In addition the fingers can be used for coarse input.

Capacitive touchscreen have much lower precision and cannot be used with a stylus. Therefore all UI elements have to be enlarged for unambiguous touch input.

A GUI designed for finger input can display considerably fewer UI elements on the screen as all elements for user interaction need to be magnified. Many applications for Maemo5 and other mobile OS have optimized UIs for finger input which often results in a very constrained or deeply nested UI structure. For example, the close button X on the title bar uses a large percentage of screen estate that could have been used for displaying useful application related information on a normal desktop UI. Another bad example is the PC-connectivity manager, which tries to fit the enormous amount of options into multiple tabs, scroll panes and dropdown menus.

However, many applications ported from desktop Linux can only be used with a stylus due to their small UI elements. If they are not running full-screen, the title bar is unnecessarily large for a stylus user.

Some people prefer to use a stylus for every-day use (due to large fingers) or under special circumstances (with gloves, dirty hands, cold wheather) and would prefer to have less screen estate wasted for too large UI elements.

Some applications are so useful that one would like to use them on the desktop as well and it should be possible for the appllcation developer to adjust their UI to desktop screen with minimal changes.

Which solution could satisfy the needs of different user input preferences, application requirements and developers?

Brainstrom thread for discussion

Solutions for this brainstorm


Solution #1: Finger and Stylus Mode for UIs

Posted on 2010-02-14 11:36 UTC by Tom Tanner.

In addition to the option Landscape/Portrait mode UIs should have a option Finger/Stylus mode which changes the size and arrangement of the UI elements.

The user should be able to quickly change between the two modes (for example, in the Status dock) or, in future devices, a magnet detector could indicate whether the stylus is in the holder of the device and the user could enable this auto-detect mechanism.

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