January 23, 2010
Bad History Repeating Itself?
I just finished reading an article in SD Times (Software Developer Times) about Microsoft and touch technology.
In this article a man by the name of Patrick Hynds, the president of CriticalSites and a Microsoft regional director, is quoted as saying that businesses won’t be using touch very much and that there will only be a few business apps that use touch.
Chris Menegay, also a Microsoft regional director, goes so far as to say that most work is text input and that nobody wants to repeatedly go from touching their screen to the keyboard and back.
Both of these individuals appear to be short sighted. They are equating business applications with filling out forms. Currently nearly all business apps are forms because forms require no thought from the engineer and developer to create. In fact, Oracle will generate the forms for you and you don’t even need developers or engineers.
The problem is that forms are highly inefficient from a training and usability perspective. When was the last time you thought, “Oh wow. This form I’m filling out is really easy to understand. Nobody even needs to tell me how to use it. I love this.” I’m going to guess that you never have.
The attitude of these gentlemen reminds me of the bad old days when leaders in similar positions to theirs were saying that operating systems and applications didn’t need to have windows since real business apps were all written for DOS. The people back then were saying that windowing systems were only needed for games.
Sound familiar? Those people back then were way off the mark and so are Hynds and Menegay.
I’ve recently been working with a company to help them move from forms based input to touch. It makes the user interaction much easier and more enjoyable but does require that the engineers and developers think differently than in the past. We have been trained for many, many years that forms are the way to go for business apps and it takes some thought to get over that fallacy.
Making an app touch friendly doesn’t just mean adding touch events to a form. It means rethinking how your user interacts with the data. Notice that I said the data, not the application. A form is only one of the many ways to interact with simple or complex data. We, as engineers and programmers, just need to think more broadly.
If we allow the user to interact with the data using touch a new revolution in worker productivity will be produced. If all we do is present forms with touch inputs, as these two gentlemen seem to think, productivity will be stuck where it is.
Embrace touch. Rethink user-data interaction. Don’t miss this great opportunity.