Usability matters

In an effort to make more dazzling user interfaces it’s important to remember that the product is supposed to be used by real people, not just serve as ads for the product itself.

Sony Ericsson had huge problems with that in their featurephones, where animations in menus etc were so slow that usability was affected, and I’m sure Sony Ericsson is not alone forgetting that important aspect.

The same goes with my new Android based SuperPad 10” tablet.

It’s kind of no-brand, as the documentation is not clear who made it, nor what the product is called. That’s not a good start.

Android apps run nicely on it, including many that are not adapted to the tablet form factor.

They’ve tried to emulate the iPad UI, and uses 3D animations for switching screens (why? a simple slide like on the iPhone/iPad would suffice) and menu scrolling, icon animations etc, that are so slow that usability is seriously suffering. Instead they should have gone for a completely non-animated UI, or at least a solution that would make use of hardware Bit Blit. Interestingly there’s a setting for shutting off animations, but it doesn’t affect anything, as far as I can see.

A simple rule regarding usability is that human beings have limited sensory abilities. Achieve that level (and preferably a bit better) and people will think the product is rocket fast, pixel-perfect, responsive etc. Go under that level and people will think it’s slow, unresponsive etc. When it comes to responsiveness: If you can’t achieve something perceptively smoothly, avoid implementing it that way. And above all, have actual people use the product before it’s signed off, so that things like this can be ironed out before release.

Add to this a resistive tocuh screen (capacitive is what counts today, due to its much better responsiveness) and non TFT (?) display that is very sensitive to viewing angle.

The SuperPad is quite inexpensive, so I didn’t expect the best components nor performance. I need it for development projects, and it probably works well for that, except I haven’t figured out yet whether it supports USB slave.

If you are after a tablet for everyday use I recommend you to stay away from it completely, and go for an Apple or Samsung product instead. You won’t regret it.

And if you want an e-reader, get a Kindle or similar instead. The SuperPad is very heavy and the battery lasts for only a few hours.