An Issue Of Design
There is one issue that I have become increasingly frustrated about. Namely the lack of really good graphic design that results in the often dreary and ‘old’ look and feel of most applications available for our Treo – particularly when it comes to productivity and information software.
Adding good graphic design however is only part of the equation. The other is also a design element but one which deals with the ‘display and structure of information’. It is evident that with a screen resolution of 320x320 and size of under 4 square inches optimizing the display of information should be at the forefront of any developer’s efforts. Nevertheless, more often than not such a focus appears to be lacking.
To help illustrate my point, one of my pet peeves has been the display of weather information. I have tested pretty much every PalmOS weather application available and yet I still have not been able to find anything approaching a graphically rich and quick-to-grasp information representation.
Above is a screenshot of the Express Weather display on my Treo compared to one of Yahoo!’s Weather Widget for the PC. Both applications essentially do exactly the same thing. They have a front-end ‘skin’ and graphic elements which change based on electronic data fetched from an online database at the back end. However, I can personally get much more relevant information and more quickly from the Weather Widget _in one single screen_ than from Express Weather where I have to click five times to get the same 5 day forecast.
Historically, the lack of rich graphics has been blamed on the low on-board memory of Palm devices which for the past 10 years has meant that developers have focused primarily on the technical and not the graphic elements of their applications claiming that it would otherwise ‘bloat’ the Palm device.
However with Treo smartphones now accounting for the bulk of Palm’s sales and for these to have increasingly more memory (Treo 700p has 64MB up from 22MB) the old paradigm simply no longer holds true. I don’t necessarily want to see 1MB+ plus Treo applications in the future but I do want better and richer graphics.
Moreover, when it comes to the ‘display of information’ graphic and memory considerations are not as relevant as simply understanding and enhancing the experience of Treonauts on a _mobile_ device where like me they will typically want an extremely quick access to online information instead of an avalanche of unstructured data packed in such a small screen.
It is a fact that the display of information on any mobile device should not and cannot be delivered in the same manner as on a PC. I would much rather have a small, quick, relevant, properly displayed and meaningful snippet of information on a single screen (which is exactly what I’m looking for when I’m on the go) than wasting time click after click or page after page trying to decipher the data typically presented currently.
It’s high time for many developers to work more closely with graphic designers and usability engineers to enhance their offerings for the age of the Treo smartphone connected at broadband speeds to the Internet and used with thumbs and 5Way navigation buttons instead of the old stylus.
Treonauts are always focused on making things better…