Much has been said about the inevitable merging of operating systems to reflect the changing computing landscape. Whereas web developers and user interface designers would pretty much only have the desktop PC to consider (factoring in different OS) the types of screens have multiplied. There is now the smartphone, the tablet, and now even the TV formats to consider. At the rate technology is advancing several more screen formats could be added to the list. The Microsoft Surface already calls for user interface designs that cover huge touchscreens. Time will tell how long until glasses join the fray as they become augmented reality Head Up Displays. Creating user interface designs for all these screens, according to usability guru Jakob Nielsen, calls for a “transmedia” UI design strategy. Naturally a one size fits all UI design strategy for a website has its limitations, as anyone surfing on a mobile phone can attest to.
What are the Main Issues with Transmedia User Interface Design
Although user interface designs will look different across different screens it is important to maintain a visual continuity. Maintaining a similar look and feel across devices breeds familiarity and improves usability. Users can then call upon their experience with a website or app on one platform onto the next. Feature continuity is another important consideration that cannot be ignored even though some features may be more of a challenge to incorporate into, say, a mobile phone. The way to go round this conundrum is to simplify a feature for a simpler device. Data continuity is also crucial and this is evident by the number of apps that offer a sync feature such as the note-taking app Evernote. Another contentious issue is content continuity. This is more difficult as it seems as, for example, one has to write more concisely for a smaller screen. In such a case it is important to retain the same tone. In other words one can think of transmedia user interface design as creating different but similar UI designs.