Monday, September 21, 2009

Learning Log VI: iPods and Mapping

“Nothing succeeds like a good display.”

The above quote is a subheading in chapter 4 of Norman’s DOET (101). Like many other statements in the book, this sentiment echoes true in 2009 more than ever. Norman lists three examples used by his students in creating more visible interfaces for everyday use (101):

“Display the song titles for compact discs.”
Of course, this has already been handled and then some by another decade of Walkmens and the rise of the iPod.

“Display the names of television programs.”
The idea is currently accessible due to digital cable boxes.

“Print the cooking information for foods on the food package in computer-readable form.”
Now this is quite fascinating, and to my knowledge has never been tried. Norman’s student proposes that an oven read instructions through a scanner-type device and then program itself. How convenient!

But anyway, let’s go back to the iPod. In the field of visibility, Norman identifies the use of sound and a good display as two important and helpful aspects to use in designing an interface (101, 102). The iPod succeeds by using both of these aspects in simple and functional manners. Its clean, efficient display organizes one’s music collection in different categories, allowing the user to choose how they want to browse. In terms of sound, the iPod produces a click by default whenever one scrolls down the screen. This assists the user in getting used to the scroll wheel’s sensitivity…which brings us to mapping.

To rip off Jerry Seinfeld, “What’s the deal with this scrolling business?” I understand the use with left and right functions, as it feels natural to scroll left or right to turn down the volume. Strangely enough, this mapping applies to the rest of the device. It’s not like the music on an iPod is sorted in a circular fashion, but rather vertically. One artist is listed directly below another. Why not use up and down mapping? I’ve seen several people new to iPod technology mistakenly press the play and menu buttons, puzzlingly mapped to the up and down regions, trying to navigate unsuccessfully. This interface is not natural, but rather learned, and designed for appearance and feel over anything. Strange...

(main menu of a newer iPod model, the iPod classic)

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