App Show 31: Touch Design Principles

In App Show 31, Amy Barton and Wendy Boswell give us a quick overview of what touch design really means for developers. Designing for touch-enabled Ultrabooks™ (coming out in Fall 2012) is quite different than designing for the tried and true desktop GUI, and there are a few things that developers will need to keep in mind in order to make the overall experience the best it can be for the end user. 

It's definitely an exciting time to be a developer. Not only are touch-enabled Ultrabooks coming out this fall, but the newest version of Windows is coming with touch capabilities as well, giving developers a rich landscape on which to create new and exciting applications. Specifically, this means huge opportunities as far as design and app possibilities, using features we’ve only seen in mobile phones and tablets, like touch sensors, GPS, accelerometer, etc. 

One of the more pressing questions about touch-enabled devices is this: are consumers willing to adapt to the new experiences that they are able to provide? Early studies indicate a resounding "yes!", in fact, the majority of subjects surveyed in a recent Intel-sponsored study preferred the touch and keyboard experience, describing it as "natural" and "intuitive". 

So what do developers need to keep in mind when designing for touch? Basicall, touch is a completely new design paradigm. Touch is a basic human connection, but the simplicity of it doesn’t mean it’s simple to design for. There are a few basic principles to keep in mind for touch:

  • Space: fingers are not precise
  • Content is the interface. Use proper target sizes and rethink forms. Nobody likes forms in touch!
  • Different controls. Can’t use the standard icons and pointers. Try sliders, input boxes, to reduce unnecessary steps. 
  • Simple is best: touch design forces you to decide what is most important. Makes it more difficult to create, but ends up being a better user experience.

If you've designed an app for the touch-enabled Ultrabook, and you've got some advice for other developers, please share in the comments. Got a question about touch design? Feel free to ask that too! 

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