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The design of Nokia's 3650


Mobitopia

Russ was just wondering if Nokia's design decisions for their 3650 mobile phone were inspired or nuts, in particular regarding the round keypad.

I think that Nokia got it right, and not by accident. I am sure that they've done a lot of user testing, but they don't have to. Circular user interfaces have long been considered superior to "linear" UIs (e.g., menus). Why? Several reasons, but for starters, look at your hand.

Our hands are better suited for rotation rather than linear precision movements. Receivers, amplifiers, and so on, have dials for selecting volume, and one reason for that is that we have higher degree of "fine control" over rotational motion with our hands over linear motion.

Because of the nature of rotational movement, it's also better suited for learning/remembering than linear or arbitrary positioned interfaces. Why? Consider that with a circular/rotational interface, the "center of gravity" of the interface, the location to which movements are relative, remains fixed (as far as the user is concerned): it's the center of your hand. On a linear interface, meanwhile, the center varies depending on the current position of the device or the function selected in the user interface. This makes it much easier to activate functions by direct motion rather than having to look at what the interface is doing.

One disadvantage that circular interfaces have is extensibility: since the space you have is limited you can't create menus with a bazillion options (like some software companies like to do). On the plus side, this means that the designers really have to think about how to create the UI, rather than piling up stuff on already-overcrowded menus.

Circular menus should become more common as we understand better how to use them, even in the context of PC user interfaces. One great example is Pie Menus for Mozilla.

Another comment on the nokia design: the teardrop shape seems to me more comfortable for holding: again better adapted to our hands.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on March 27 2003 at 5:04 PM

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