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HTC's head designer on what's exciting in designing for mobile right now

Neil Bennett | July 1, 2015
HTC's head designer Drew Bamford tells us how you create interfaces and experiences for increasingly large phones and VR headsets – and how you design differently for Asia.

"The debate is still going."

NB: Are there other differences, beyond the different characters of course?

DB: "It's not only just the localising the text, I think there are even much higher level differences in expectations. For example, in Asia in general and especially in China, there's a much higher tolerance for high density in the UIs and people just expect you to put more stuff on every screen.

"Whereas in the West people really like to have a lot of white space. [We like] breathing room - it makes you feel more calm.

"My theory is that in Asia the physical environment is so stimulating and is so dense. You walk down the street in China [and] there's just signs everywhere. You're bombarded with stuff. I think people get used to that. When they see a UI they expect to have a similar kind of level of density. We struggle a bit with that and I think over time we're going to have just adapt to it in our Asian products and adopt a more dense style."

NB: This concept of a UI that changes depending on where you are is something unique to HTC right now. Why did you want to create it?

DB: "As you launch apps in a given location, we notice which apps you're using and the frequency of use - and then we bubble those apps up into that special area of the home screen. We track you from home to work to the office so that you get the right apps in the right scenario

"It's a great example of a place where the industry as a whole has not really gone there. The industry has settled on the idea that users should manually configure a grid of apps, and that's the way to launch apps. We have a strong feeling that that's not good enough.

"Based on our research, we see people struggle with finding apps all the time. When you download apps from the app store on Android, the default behaviour is that it just puts it on your home screen somewhere. Over time, as you download apps, you have these app shortcuts just littered all over your home screen in no particular organisational scheme.

"We've noticed people just flipping through screens, waiting to see the right app. It just felt like this is an opportunity to make somebody's life a lot better on a daily basis. It's a latent need and the holy grail [of user experience design] is identifying latent needs - needs that people won't articulate themselves.

"If you ask somebody 'how can we improve your home screen?', they might say, 'give me more pages or make it look 3D'. They're not going to say, 'what if it could automatically suggest apps or organise itself' because it's just not within the realm of possibility for typical users. You have to observe them identify their needs and then try to come up with creative ways to meet those needs.


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