Thursday, March 17, 2005Clever zooming tricks improve mobile user interfaces
In my latest piece for TheFeature, I wrote about way researchers are using zooming tricks to make web sites easier to use on mobile phones.
[Patrick] Baudisch's solution to this problem is called "summary thumbnails," which he developed in collaboration with Heidi Lam at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. It is a mobile browser that renders pages as thumbnails, but keeps the text large enough to read. It achieves this by displaying readable text fragments. For example, a CNN.com headline that reads "Chimpanzee Attacks Supermodel at Circus" might be shortened to "Chimpanzee Attacks." All the other headlines and story summaries on the page get the same treatment. There's no artificial intelligence at work here -- it's simple truncation. But it's surprisingly effective. Baudisch and Lam conducted a user study and discovered that users found what they were looking for in web pages 41% faster and at a 71% lower error rate than they did when they looked for the same content on browsers that rendered pages as single columns, and that they zoomed 59% less than when they used ordinary thumbnail rendering browsers.Link