Step 4) Understanding the target devices /platforms – PART 1 of 4

It’s time.
It’s time to design.
You know the users.
You know the market.
You know the people very well, whose money is riding on your idea :).
You know the timelines.
You know the constraints.

It is important to know the devices/platforms that you are designing for. The software and hardware are intertwined. Know the devices / platforms well enough so that your design solution utilizes the device’s capabilities to a great extent.

Get yourself familiarized with the device. If you are designing an interface for television, spend hours playing with the TV remote and watching TV. TV remote may open up possibilities in your interface design.

TV Guide

TV Guide

If you are designing a control panel for a washing machine, get the brains of the industrial design and engineering team. Understand the machine capabilities, the happy paths (e.g. musical tone to indicate that washing is done – scenarios in which user will not encounter any problem) and exceptions that come with the machine (e.g. the washtub is overloaded). Understand what the machine CAN DO and CANNOT DO. People will tell you what the machine is SUPPOSED to do :).

Washing machine control panel

Washing machine control panel

Test the device to the limits – both in terms of software and hardware. Imagine the worst-case scenarios of usage.

When iPad was launched in 2010, Amazon came up with a funny ad for Kindle. Clearly, it knew the device positives, the users and the context. Here is the ad:

We have embraced touch-screen interactivity in majority of the devices. Mobiles, tablets, ATMs, point of sale terminals, medical devices, field-force devices all have touch-screen capabilities.

Devices also come with their own interaction & visual design language.  Apple’s iOS applications have to be designed keeping in mind the ‘Apple-ness’ – the way interfaces look and behave.

Apple has published its Human Interface Guidelines to help designers and developers create new iOs apps.

iOS Human Interface Guidelines

iOS Human Interface Guidelines

Google also has published its Android mobile UI guidelines. Slowly and steadily, it is bridging the gap with iOS in terms of the ‘experience’ of using Android applications, vis-à-vis iOS applications.

Android Design Guidelines

Android Design Guidelines

E-commerce websites have evolved over time. Take example of Amazon that started selling books and now sells everything on earth. Another candidate is eBay, which has maintained its DNA of being the flea market on the web, right from its inception. eBay has undergone changes to its website.

eBay has published its ‘pattern library’ online to familiarize the interaction designers & visual designers with its unique templates that define the eBay experience.

eBay UI pattern library

eBay UI pattern library

Understanding the devices brings in our discussion on the ‘T-approach” in older post: know the devices and target platforms as much as the user needs. A little more knowledge will surely help you. Less knowledge about the device / platform may create a loosely coupled design solution.

Gene Kranz, the flight director of Apollo13 quoted the famous lines while discussing the options of bringing the astronauts back to earth. His team members debated on the limitations of the lunar module – designed only for landing on the moon, not to fire the engine & come back. Kranz replied, “I don’t care what anything was designed to do. I care about what it can do.”

Great designers see the product in one shot – fusion of hardware, software, interactions and experiences. That’s what makes a great product great :).

In our next post, lets look at the tools that you will need to create the sketches / paper prototypes.

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