Monday, November 15, 2010

Flat, Folder or Something Better

Judging from the popularity of the iPhone and Android user interfaces (UIs) it looks like users prefer pages and pages of icons (flat) compared to more traditional UIs where each icon opens a folder. Is this really the case or are we just looking at a current fad where the newness of quickly swiping between pages seems cooler that ‘the old fashioned’ tapping to open a folder?

A recent blog ‘Another Look at Mobile User Interfaces’ from Mobility Nigeria argues that the popularity of flat UIs is simply a bias and hides the fact that flat UIs are harder to use when icon-pages reach beyond – say three. After all, the extra tap to open a folder is just replaced by the extra swipe(s) to find the page where the desired application icon is located. Folders even have organizational advantage by being aptly named or easy to recognize icons.

What neither flat nor folder UIs have is a sense of location and direction or simple and clear organization – it is easy to get lost or forget where you are, forget how to get from here to there. It is also difficult to organize/personalize app locations and folders so that you can find what you are looking for. So is there something better?

The mJetz mobile web app replaces folder or flat with fluid navigation where apps, sites and folders are placed on an open UI that expands in front of your eyes as you navigate towards the right or up/down. Folders automatically open up and show their content when you get close to them and apps/sites become clickable when they come into focus. New apps or sites are quickly added as favorites with clear names or icons and can be organized Ifrom the phone or web) into personal folders and placed where you want them in the UI. With mJetz you always know where you are and your favorite apps are always easy to find and use.

So as the fad of flat fades - it is time to replace it with fluid!

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