A few months back I posted a collection of Microsoft Surface tips from the Twitter hashtag #Surfacetip. The 140 character limit is somewhat challenging so I'm planning to tackle these tips one-by-one in a tad more detail.
I’ll start with a simple tip, but one that resonates with me from recent projects, and that is ensuring that everyone is on the same page when it comes down to a common understanding of what a Surface experience is.
Tip #1 - Kick off every Microsoft Surface project with a half-day Play & Tell Workshop.
A challenge of natural user interface design is that this is a new paradigm in interface design and development. Surface invites a different way of interacting and manipulating content. This is not a subtle change but a significant change in the way we interface with digital content. For many folk this is a significant paradigm shift so don't expect everyone to take to it so easily. Years of desktop and web applications means some people are understandably institutionalized and will take time to fully down their web way of thinking and enter this brave new world.
Another point is that although multi-touch has been around for several decades we are only now seeing mainstream adoption. The iPhone has accelerated the interest in multi-touch and the mobile market has been busy satisfying consumer demand for multi-touch and gesture-based computing. Although many of us appear familiar with multi-touch, there is still an element of novelty to these gestural interfaces which can mean that other features get overlooked. And a Surface experience is much more than this. There are many new concepts to understand in Surface design such as multi-friends vs. multi-stranger experiences, collaboration, playful design, social interaction, object recognition, superrealism and 360-degree user interfaces.
And this is where the risk lies. If the team (client and internal project team) don't kick-start the project with a common understanding of the Microsoft Surface philosophy then the risk is that downstream you'll find yourself delivering an application that is not optimised for the Surface computing paradigm.
The purpose of the Play & Tell Workshop is to inform the team of this new interaction paradigm through play and discussion. It's a great activity to actually kick off the project as the Surface device plays to its strengths of encouraging social interaction. The objective is to ensure that you share the same vision of a Surface experience. This session is facilitated by a practitioner of multi-touch design. This should be a fun, exploratory session but the practitioner needs to articulate the features of the Surface experience. Some of the subtleties of good design need to be explained as these intuitive, natural and engaging experiences can mask the complexities and thought process that has gone in to them.
Our clients pay us to give them what they want but also for our expertise to guide them and help them make informed decisions. The Play & Tell Workshop kick-starts the project with a common understanding of the principles of Surface computing. These principles must be kept in mind during the entire project to deliver an experience which is true to the spirit of Microsoft Surface.
If anyone wants to suggest further tips then please use the hashtag #Surfacetip