By far the best talk I’ve attended in the last two days at South By Southwest has been “The Next Mobile Experience” by Sung Kim, founder of Gestures, Inc. The idea behind his session was simple: The mobile experience needs to get a lot better.
Too often on an app or a mobile-ready website, the user interface is impossible to use. Often, actions are driven by “clicking” on tiny buttons and navigating an experience with your fingers that was clearly designed to work on a desktop with a mouse and lot more screen space.
Sung highlighted the fact that we still design mobile experiences as if the user were using a mouse instead of their fingers. Our fingers, he argued, give us the ability to use gestures in a way that will make navigating mobile apps and websites simple. He showed several examples of this throughout the presentation. He also pointed out how the shape of our mobile devices works against us and proposed a more oval-shaped device that would be easier to wrap our hands around, reducing unusable space in the corners. He also suggested that user interfaces avoid linear boxes and instead focus on a more spherical, organic design.
Sung encourages the use of gestures as a cornerstone of the mobile user experience. He highlighted how we currently don’t have universal rules for how gestures work on apps—everyone is doing it differently. His company put together a series of universal rules or guidelines for a gestural interface. These rules are available for download at http://thegestures.com/, as is their flagship camera app. The app uses these guidelines and principles to push mobile to a friendlier, more natural interface. In the next year they hope to release a social network app that will be similarly organic in structure.
As a mobile user and web developer, a lot of what he said resonated with me—particularly his ideas about using gestures and having universal guidelines for how they should work. I’d like to try to push the mobile experiences that we build at Blast Radius in this direction—more organic, easier to use, and more forward thinking.
Styluses? Really? Sung argued that styluses prove that we’re designing mobile experiences as if they’re desktop experiences—rather than make experiences meant to work with our hands, we’re building things that work better with a mock mouse.