How to Design for Large Touch Screens
Visiting my mom in the nursing home is always a fun time, said no one, ever. I don’t have to do so as frequently as others have too – I go only on the rarest of occasions. My mother works at the nursing home in question so don’t worry, I love her but don’t need to be reminded of the sadness we all face at the end of our days too frequently if I can help it. As a software developer and eternal optimist though, this environment got me thinking, what do we have to look forward to in the nursing home?
First and foremost, being a millennial and all, I thought of the countless hours of video games one could consume, and it dawned on me – this vast market of consumers is not being catered to as well as it could be by the software industry of today. The elderly aren’t being treated poorly by designers on purpose, it is the art of design itself that leaves them out of the loop. Proper design is driven first and foremost by users and their interests. If enough users complain about a certain interface in your application, you better well fix it, or you may soon find yourself without any users.
The elderly, therefore, are being left out due to their lack of engagement with the software developers making new technology, not because of some inherent bias or lack of empathy towards the elderly the software developers themselves have. This user-driven development scheme applies to almost every industry but is especially useful in software design. Designers are keen to see their most imaginative ideas come to life and share them with the world, and a lot of times what happens is that they find that the rest of the world isn’t as imaginative as they are themselves and that their audience wasn’t prepared for the product they brought forth.
This phenomenon can easily be avoided by designing with the user in mind from the get-go. Large screen design can also draw on concepts usually reserved for web development, as highlighted by UX Collective writer Yubing Zhang in her piece, “Designing for large touchscreen – Always have the user context in mind.” Zhang shares that when trying to put pen to paper and get things done web design techniques can offer a great starting point as they are meant for large screens as well. Keeping the screen free of clutter is even more critical in touchscreen design than web development as users will likely have fewer input options to move around the overlays compared to a typical web interface.
Centering the content and ensuring that interface options work also can be tied back to web development best practices and employed when designing for large touchscreens. To summarize, designing for large touchscreens is similar to designing for web development projects but with the added caveat that touchscreen design can be very localized in its deployment.
This is why user-driven design is the most fundamental part of touchscreen design and should underlie all decisions in the development process as it can help overcome undesirable surprises and setbacks far before the deployment date rolls around.