Smartphone Usability

I confess to not having a smartphone. Before the advent of personal computers, complaints were being heard about information overload, there being too much information to process. This problem was significantly increased by the advent of personal computers, significantly exacerbated by the internet, and has become much worse with smartphones. I don’t have a smartphone, and I was recently encouraged when I bought a new dumb phone that came with the warning to not use while driving. I don’t feel a need for a smartphone and find not having one helps me deal with the problem of information overload. I’d rather wait until I can conveniently get to my laptop rather than deal with the minute keyboards and displays.

An article1 in the Washington Post further raised the issue of usability. According to a Gallup Poll, 62% of Americans now own a smartphone. But according to the Pew Research Center only half of these users download apps and read or send e-mail. A 2012 Harris Interactive Poll found that just 5% of Americans used their smartphones to show codes for movie admission or to show an airline boarding pass. Moreover, these problems are not limited to the older generation. Experts who study smartphone use, as well as tech-support professionals who work with the confused say that smartphone usability problems at all ages and for all kinds of reasons. The Genius Bar at Apple2 stores sometimes require that desperate iPhone users make their appointments days in advance.

Clearly the issue of usability is missing. Absent are design guidelines for smartphones that emphasis usability. Here are some design principles from an Adroid developer’s Web site: “Enchant me, simplify my life, make me amazing.” What about making my smartphone easy to use rather than complicating my life?

Back in the old days of command line interfaces, usability was a key requirement for government users. With the advent of graphical user interfaces (GUIs), that requirement is missing. Unfortunately, the government appears to have bought Apple’s propaganda that GUIs are intuitive. GUIs can and should be made intuitive, but a GUI without usability guidelines usually will not.

Please weigh in with your comments on this topic.

1Rosenwald, M.S. (2013). Phones getting smarter, but their users aren’t. Washington Post, 19 January C1..

2Apple promoted their intuitive point and click interface. There is ample research to prove that this claim was a lie.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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