Is web UI broken?

Tags: web-development, UI, mobile, tablet

Getting your first touch UI device opens up some different angles on the web UI. On top of that, when the device is aiming to replace our standard way we’re consuming Internet content today, in front of the keyboard and mouse, some really interesting insights pop out very quickly.

I’ve been a BlackBerry phones user for the last two and a half years, choosing exclusively phones with full keyboard. At the end of last week, I just got my BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, which is my first more thorough experience with touch UI (playing sporadically with other people’s phones occasionally can’t be called an experience).

During the first week of using the tablet for casual web surfing, some things on the web suddenly become really obvious, mostly from the UX perspective.

Unlike phones, which inherently provide smaller screens and need specialized UIs, tablets are becoming a home consumer Internet device. A thing that's aiming to replace a home computer for casual Internet content consuming, therefore one’s expecting to be able to consume 'desktop' web sites with the similar experience as on the standard computer.

Given that premise, the current state of the web content UIs show severe flaws. Many of the websites provide UIs, which are actually made for the precise navigation that mouse provides. That is the UI we’re accustomed to.

Unlike the mouse navigation, finger-tapping require a different approach. Active (clickable) elements should provide volume. Volume enables user to have the precision one requires to navigate the UI with confidence. Without it, it boils down to aiming at tiny clickable objects with no real assurance whether the right object will be hit, or even if it will be hit at all.

The most notable examples would be inline plain-text, pipe separated paging links, or link to the newest post from forums (like on the image(s) below). Trying to hit those by finger-tapping is really frustrating experience.

Tiny web links

So, the time has come for some new paradigms when designing for the 'desktop' web. We’re at the point where more 'mobile' web elements should find its way to their desktop counterparts - links will become styled more as buttons to gain volume, clickable areas will be larger and the active content will need more white-space. All that without sacrificing the standard precise-pointer navigation interface.

Fun times for web designers are coming, embracing the touch UI, and finding the common ground between the classic and new UI paradigms on a desktop web.

The desktop web as we know it is rapidly changing.

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