A HYBRID FUTURE

Hybrid and convertible devices are digital products that accept multiple channels of input methods, for example touch, mouse, stylus. They are created to fulfill consumer's desire to have a lightweight but powerful portable work-station. While mobile and desktop OS are merging, the products that live on them have not evolved in the same speed.

We can no longer make assumptions about input based screen sizes or form factor  —  Jason Grigsby, Adaptive Input

I absolutely agree with Jason's statement about inputs. Soon enough, all the desktop users will interact with your product with touch and gesture. How can a product adapt for multiple inputs?

You may find these design tips helpful. These are based on my experience designing for Windows 8 hybrid and convertible devices.

ON-SCREEN SOFT KEYBOARD INPUT

  1. Adaptive layout
    • On-screen keyboard should not block users from getting their tasks done
    • Provide additional value for additional space
  2. Design for limited space first
    • Consider how your Windows 8 app will look in a snap view first then scale up.
  3. Customize keyboard keys
    • Typing on a soft keyboard is no fun. Hack your way to make it easier.
  4. Easy to reach main input fields
    • Input fields receive the most amount of focus when participant types on soft keyboard. The bigger the screen is, the further distance eyes have to travel.


HARDWARE KEYBOARD INPUT

  1. Functional without touch or mouse
    • Each UI element that can be clicked can also be invoked with the keyboard
    • Navigate among interactive UI elements (links, drop downs) by using the Tab key
  2. Support command keyboard commands


MOUSE INPUT

  1. Take advantage of hover-over
    • Display more detailed information or teaching visuals without a commitment to an action
  2. Consider mouse device capabilities
    • Microsoft Touch Mouse supports swiping gestures by thumb, two fingers, three fingers. It's worthy checking how your product react to those gesture support.
  3. Provide affordance for the cursor
    • Many touch-optimized apps don't response to cursor hover-over. They don't feel as live and inviting when interacted with a mouse.


I shared those design practices with Firefox Android team in June 2013. A full presentation which includes background research is available on Speakerdeck.  Currently I am officially working on Firefox Android on tablet. I am looking forward to apply these tips into the real practice to create a simple and powerful browsing experience on hybrid and convertible Android devices.