August 29, 2003

Thoughts on UI improvements for navigating grids

Just wondering about UI screens on mobile devices which show a grid of options (or even a list, as that's just a special case of a grid :-). Something like the App Menu on a Nokia 7650. There's a grid of icons for the apps, and you start in the top left corner. Moving the cursor around navigates through the icons, and when you get to the bottom of the screen it scrolls the all the other icons up one position in order to show you the next row of icons.

There are two problems with this, I think.

  1. The focus starts at the top left, meaning that up and left don't have any effect when you first get into the menu. If focus was placed in the middle, then there'd be two more options which were only one move away, reducing the number of "operations" to get to them.

  2. There's less visibility of what's coming next as you scroll to items which are initially off-screen. If focus was initially in the middle of the screen, then you could scroll the icons underneath the focus (rather than scrolling the focus over the icons) and only move the focus icon away from centre when you get to the edges of the entire icon grid. Then you'd get maximum visibility of the next options available as you'd always be able to see where the next move would take you. And you wouldn't have to have little UI "hints", such as tiny arrows somewhere, to indicate that there are more elements off screen because that would become clear to the user as they scrolled around.

I think the main problem with such a scheme would be how easy it is for users to pick up. I think it's fairly intuitive (I remember using it in a plan-view driving game I was playing with many years ago) but it's pretty much the opposite of what systems do now, and so would be fighting the "norm".

Posted by Adrian at August 29, 2003 11:38 AM | TrackBack

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