Don’t miniaturize your application, redesign it instead

Anyone that’s read this blog knows that I am a fan of mobile devices and touchscreen technology; from the smartphone to tablet PCs and the iPad. My love affair with mobile technology actually began with the HP 200LX palmtop computer when I was in Pharmacy School. I couldn’t believe that something so small could have so much power; funny now, but a marvel at the time. Now fast forward to early 2000 when I purchased a TRGpro, my first Palm OS device, and never looked back.

The Palm OS was a leap forward in technology secondary to the genius of simplicity and user interface (UI) design, something that Apple has taken to new heights with its current line of products. Too often you see companies try to take their desktop application and miniaturize it to a mobile device. That’s not an effective way to design a handheld user interface, just ask Microsoft. My first Windows mobile device was a HP Jornada in early 2002. It ran on Windows CE, and had great potential, but even I became frustrated with the number of clicks and menus one had to go through to get something done. Microsoft had broken the first rule of putting an operating system on a handheld device: don’t try to copy the desktop. Compared to the Palm OS, Windows CE was a terrible user experience. I believe Windows CE could still be a great mobile platform given the right amount of TLC, but we will probably never know.

Looking at today’s newer mobile platforms it appears that almost everyone has finally gotten the point. Palm provided the template nearly a decade ago by simplifying the UI and making the user experience priority number one. Even though Apple has nearly perfected the idea I believe that the webOS, the most recent iteration of the Palm OS, may actually provide a better platform for mobile devices. The Card View design has a lot of potential for applications in healthcare.

The tablet PC is an example of potential for a great user experience that was never realized. It’s great having the complete functionality of a desktop computer, but rarely is it necessary. To compound the problem Windows was never completely redesigned to be a friendly touch environment. Software designers understand this as there are several vendors like Thinix developing UI’s that lie over the top of the Windows environment making the operating system easier to use on a tablet PC.

I carry my tablet all over the place, but most of the time its use revolves around the Microsoft Office Suite for taking notes and managing documents, PDF annotation software and accessing the internet. I dare say that I don’t use nor need 80% of what the machine is capable of. I would love to see a stripped down version of Windows on a tablet that was built around their Office line of products and was well integrated with Windows Live, including Office Live, SkyDrive and Live Sync. Often times I think vendors simply try to cram too much functionality into mobile software or try to create an exact replica of the desktop. In my opinion it would be better to take the most frequently used functions, make it brain-dead simple to use and scrap the rest.

5 thoughts on “Don’t miniaturize your application, redesign it instead”

  1. Wow, Jay, this is one of your best yet. You really need to get out of the hospital. You belong in a software company, you get it.

    Too bad you have to work in a non-tech world that is stuck 20-years in the past, that has to be frustrating. I’m sure your hospital believes they’re on the bleeding edge, but they’re really not.

  2. Ha, that’s funny bro. Thanks for the kind words, but I think I’m pretty much beyond my productive years now. Time to just sit in the rocking chair on the porch and enjoy the sunsets.

    Oh, I agree about hospitals being stuck in the technology past. Maybe that’s a good thing as it makes the ‘average Joe’ look like Einstein :-0

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