Chapter 2: Understanding and Conceptualizing Interaction
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Compare the following:
- a paperback book and an ebook;
- a paper-based map and a smartphone map.
What are the main concepts and metaphors that have been used for each? How do they differ? What aspects of the paper-based artifact have informed the digital app? What is the new functionality? Are any aspects of the conceptual model confusing? What are the pros and cons?
The main purpose of this assignment is for you to consider how a digital artifact has been designed based on the same conceptual model of an equivalent physical artifact. Paperback books are designed on a conceptual model of reading by turning a set of physical pages that are stitched together and supported by a spine. Bookmarks, or other artifacts, like paper tickets, receipts or a piece of paper are used to indicate where the reader has read up to when closing the book and then returning to it. The book also has a table of contents and sometimes an index of keywords at the back. The front and back covers are designed using thicker card to protect the inner pages but also are used for marketing the book, often having a distinctive visual design that ‘sells’ the book and provides information about the author and what the book is about. This can help them stand out on a book shelf and be easily recognized. All of these physical attributes contribute towards the legibility, memorability and ease of use of reading from paper.
ebooks are based on the metaphor of a printed paperback but with additional functionality. The conceptual model is to provide a means of reading text from pages and to be able to move from page to page. Another similarity is that ebooks are presented via a physical device (e.g. a Kindle) that is about the same size as a paperback. The look of the page is often similar to that of a paperback book - black text appearing on a white screen. However, there are many differences to how an ebook is read and used. Pages are turned by pressing a button on the side. An ebook is downloaded from an online store as a file and stored on one device. The size of the text appearing on the screen can be increased and the brightness of the page can be adapted to suit the reader. There are also additional navigation functions that show how many pages have been read and how much of the book is left to be read. One of the disadvantages of losing the physicality of the paperback book is it does not have the same aesthetic appeal when reading it. While the digital cover can appear the same on a screen it is less easy to pick it out from others that are stored on the ereader. Also they cannot be flicked through or browsed in the way people do when picking up a physical paperback book.
b) Paper-based maps are designed as visual representations of a geographical area, such as a city, that are intended to help people find places and plan a route and navigate their way to an unfamiliar destination. They are typically based on a conceptual model of a 2D bird’s eye view of the physical world that the user looks down on. Features of the environment are coded using schematic and concrete mappings (e.g. blue lines for a river, a dashed line for a railway track) that show relationships between the geographical elements (e.g. where roads intersect). They require map reading skills – knowing how to locate yourself relative to the physical world and how to plan a route. Physical maps are fixed and use canonical signs and symbols to represent objects.
Smartphone digital maps are based on a conceptual model of the physical map, using similar elements to show a geographical terrain. However, they also have much more functionality and interactivity added to them. They can be used while stationary to plan a route – which can be provided automatically and annotated on the physical map. They can also be used while walking or driving to show where the user is relative to the surrounding environment and how far they have gone and how far to go to reach their destination. The user is also represented with a cursor/circle or person icon to show where they are. Other functions include the use of gestural signs alongside the map in the form of arrows to show which direction to go and voice commands telling the user where to go when reaching a junction or cross roads.
People can locate themselves, plan the route, and monitor their navigational progress with both map systems. Physical maps can be opened up and spread out to see a whole area. Smartphone maps, however, are constrained by the size of the device screen. To accommodate this they only show a partial area at any given time, so that it is difficult to get an overall map of a region. To compensate the device provides zooming functions at various scales to enable the user to move through, expand or shrink the map. When reading a paper map users have to match where they are with what they are looking at in the map, such as landmarks or street names, in order to locate themselves. Smartphone maps have transformed map reading into more of a follow the dot/arrow experience that is overlaid on a dynamic spatial representation of the environment.