Thursday, February 16, 2006

More detail on the iPod-style navigation

The iPod is renowned for its stylish looks and good attention to design and usability principles. Most menu navigation is performed using the 'click wheel', until recently designed by Synaptics who also make the touchpads in many laptop computers and based on the principle of these touchpads but with movement in only one dimension (a circle which can be rotated in either direction).

This translates well to the possible idea of a rotating bezel around the face of a watch. The idea is that rotation of the bezel or click wheel is equivalent to scrolling up or down a menu depending on which direction you rotate in. Clicking a physical button, rather like a laptop touchpad mouse button, allows the user to select the current menu item. It's intuitive and relatively easy to pick up.

An older equivalent is the Nokia 7110 and its Navi™ roller, which scrolls up and down and clicks like a wheel mouse. However this was designed primarily for WAP browsing and once this had flopped, the Navi™ roller was dropped too.

Clearly for blind users some changes will have to be made. The 'select' button will have to become raised out of the profile of the watch face (much like the 3rd and 4th generation iPods before the 5th generation flattened the button). We may want more than one button on the watch face as well, each dedicated to one specific function in addition to the single dedicated menu select button, as relying on delving inside menus for commonly-accessed features will not be desirable for any user let alone one who can't see what menu they're on.

Names of menu items will need to be spoken. Current blind talking watches do this well with a loud speaker on the watch face, which can easily be moved nearer to the user's ear in a noisy environment if the user is having difficulty hearing, simply by raising the wrist.

Obviously the user will not want to spend 30 seconds scrolling through each menu and having each item spoken to them one at a time as they scroll through. My suggestion is that as the user scrolls the menu selection changes proportionally to the amount of scrolling done by the bezel. The bezel should click each time a menu item is transitioned to give some idea of progress through the menu.

People are quite capable of memorising the approximate layout of a menu given practice. Nokia phone menus are a good example of this, and a good converse example is Microsoft Office with its irritating collapsing self-reorganising menus (an old HCI post of mine) so it's reasonable to expect a user, after using the device long enough to be familiar with it, to be able to locate menu items in terms of 'numbers of clicks' or, more likely, just scrolling the bezel approximately one quarter of the way around clockwise (for example) to where they remember the desired menu item being.

Only once the user has stopped scrolling (indicated by a pause of eg. half a second) should the current menu item be spoken. The user can then press the 'select' button to confirm, or continue scrolling knowing that the desired menu item may be just a couple of clicks away from where they thought they are.

Any comments on this idea? Leave them after this post. Then we'll have to come up with some suggested designs for the watch face incorporating all this if we can get a workable consensus on the design.

iPod sources:


At 16 February, 2006 14:53, Blogger Daniel Trimm said...

the ipod click wheel builds buttons into the wheel, even though i think this is useless to use, it does state something we need, a menu/back/cancel button, as well as a ok/execute button


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