Browse a computer shop these days and you’re likely to find something new. Yes, it is the new all-in-one touchscreen PC. A PC that only requires a single unit, which does not require a mouse or keyboard (although you are able to use these too, should you wish). If these machines become popular this Christmas and over the next year, then they could alter the manner in which we design and operate computer applications. Given the prominence of the touchscreen already, from the Nintendo DS to smartphones, iPads to sat-navs, and now the all-in-one PC, there is already a large public appetite for the kind of interaction that the touchscreen facilitates.
For many businesses with websites, the touchscreen could be crucial as it allows for a new type of consumer interaction. Customers will feel much closer to your business as their touchscreens increase their feeling of interaction. Users who virtually touch your products through real-life physical motion will feel a stronger connection between your products and themselves.
Web designers considering how their sites are viewed and accessed on touchscreen computers will need to consider a large range of new issues:
• Bright Colours – dirt transferred to the screen from fingers means that dark colours might become undesirable as brighter colours help mask grease and dirt.
• Switch things around – Left handers surf the web as well! Menus and buttons need to be easily accessible to both left-handers and right-handers.
• Size is important – Nice big buttons make it easier to your site easier to navigate. With big clumsy fingers, a tiny menu can be quite tricky on a touchscreen PC.
• Quick and easy – one of the pros of a touchscreen is that it can be a lot faster. But as well as making your site fast loading, it needs to be easy to navigate.
• Hide the cursor – No mouse means no cursor is needed. Users aren’t going to lose track of where their fingers are, but they might lose a cursor. Why distract them from your site with extra features that they don’t need?
• Layout – how will users interact with your site? Remember, those clunky digits can get in the way and block some of your carefully-designed content.
• Don’t make it a marathon – Lots of big movements across the screen and pointless clicking could wear the user out and dissuade them from staying on your site. Carefully think about how necessary each movement is and how to minimize arm fatigue.
These issues are, of course, merely a drop in the sea of what could become possible and what might need to be considered by the web designer of the future. That isn’t to say we should forget the humble mouse-user, though. Touchscreens provide a whole new age of interactivity, and web designers will, no doubt, find amazing, innovative new ways to harness this in the proceeding years. It will be particularly interesting to follow the ways in which businesses use this in the marketing of their websites. Interactivity is already fast becoming a big player in online marketing, particularly through social media, but it is yet to be seen how touchscreen technology might figure into that.