Mobile technology has been one of the major growth areas in computing over recent years (Urbaczewski, Valacich, & Jessup, 2003). Mobile devices are becoming increasingly diverse and are continuing to shrink in size and weight. Although this increases the portability of such devices, their usability tends to suffer. Fuelled almost entirely by lack of usability, users report high levels of frustration regarding interaction with mobile technologies (Venkatesh, Ramesh, & Massey, 2003). This will only worsen if interaction design for mobile technologies does not continue to receive increasing research attention. For the commercial benefit of mobility and mobile commerce (m-commerce) to be fully realized, users’ interaction experiences with mobile technology cannot be negative. To ensure this, it is imperative that we design the right types of mobile interaction (m-interaction); an important prerequisite for this is ensuring that users’ experience meets both their sensory and functional needs (Venkatesh, Ramesh, & Massey, 2003). Given the resource disparity between mobile and desktop technologies, successful electronic commerce (e-commerce) interface design and evaluation does not necessarily equate to successful m-commerce design and evaluation. It is, therefore, imperative that the specific needs of m-commerce are addressed–both in terms of design and evaluation. This chapter begins by exploring the complexities of designing interaction for mobile technology, highlighting the effect of context on the use of such technology. It then goes on to discuss how interaction design for mobile devices might evolve, introducing alternative interaction modalities that are likely to affect that future evolution. It is impossible, within a single chapter, to consider each and every potential mechanism for interacting with mobile technologies; to provide a forward-looking flavor of what might be possible, this chapter focuses on some more novel methods of interaction and does not, therefore, look at the typical keyboard and visual display-based interaction which, in essence, stem from the desktop interaction design paradigm. Finally, this chapter touches on issues associated with effective evaluation of m-interaction and mobile application designs. By highlighting some of the issues and possibilities for novel m-interaction design and evaluation, we hope that future designers will be encouraged to “think out of the box” in terms of their designs and evaluation strategies.
The Complexity Of Designing Interaction For Mobility
Despite the obvious disparity between desktop systems and mobile devices in terms of “traditional” input and output capabilities, the user interface designs of most mobile devices are based heavily on the tried-and-tested desktop design paradigm. Desktop user interface design originates from the fact that users are stationary—that is, seated at a desk—and can devote all or most of their attentional resources to the application with which they are interacting. Hence, the interfaces to desktop-based applications are typically very graphical (often very detailed) and use the standard keyboard and mouse to facilitate interaction. This has proven to be a very successful paradigm, which has been enhanced by the availability of ever more sophisticated and increasingly larger displays.
Contrast this with mobile devices—for example, cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and wearable computers. Users of these devices are typically in motion when using their device. This means that they cannot devote all of their attentional resources—especially visual resources—to the application with which they are interacting; such resources must remain with their primary task, often for safety reasons (Brewster, 2002). Additionally, mobile devices have limited screen real estate and standard input and output capabilities are generally restricted. This makes designing m-interaction difficult and ineffective if we insist on adhering to the tried-and-tested desktop paradigm. Poor m-interaction design has thus far led to disenchantment with m-commerce applications: m-interaction that is found to be difficult results in wasted time, errors, and frustration that ultimately end in abandonment.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Soundscape: The design of audio cues and their mapping to application objects or user actions.
Mode: The style or nature of the interaction between the user and the computer.
Earcon: Abstract, synthetic sounds used in structured combinations whereby the musical qualities of the sounds hold and convey information relative to application objects or activities.
Active Distractions: Environmental aspects that require a user to respond or react in some way.
Interfering Distractions: These environmental aspects may be passive or active and they interfere with a user’s ability to effectively interact with a mobile device.
User Interface: A collection of interaction techniques for input of information/commands to an application as well as all manner of feedback to the user from the system that allow a user to interact with a software application.
M-commerce: Mobile access to, and use of, information which, unlike e-commerce, is not necessarily of a transactional nature.
Multimodal: The use of different modalities within a single user interface.
Modality: The pairing of a representational system (or mode) and a physical input or output device.
Auditory Icon: Icons which use everyday sounds to represent application objects or activities.
Passive Distractions: Environmental aspects which distract users but require no active response.