Horizontal swiping and fat finger syndrome

…are just two of the topics covered in Jakob Nielsen’s latest Alertbox article, Mobile Usability Update, hot off the (virtual) press.

Noting the overall improvements in mobile usability since his first report two years ago (although I’m unsure whether it’s a good thing that the number of guidelines has increased from 85 to 210), Nielsen singles out Android apps as being markedly better  – a sign, he suggests, of a growing attention to quality resulting from an increase in market share.

A mobile app still tends to be superior to a mobile website – but in the case of the Rave in Context project, we don’t have this luxury, as we want to develop a single set of widgets to run across a range of devices and form factors.

So, what guidelines have we gleaned in particular? Well, I have just emailed these two to our development team:

Horizontal swiping:

‘Swiping is still less discoverable than most other ways of manipulating mobile content, so we recommend including a visible cue when people can swipe, or they might never do so and thus miss most of your offerings. Also, you should avoid swipe ambiguity: don’t employ the same swipe gesture to mean different things on different areas of the same screen. This recommendation is the same for mobile phones and tablet usability, showing the similarity between these two gesture-based platforms.’

Fat-finger syndrome:

‘…we still see users struggle to hit tiny areas that are much smaller than their fingers. The fat-finger syndrome will be with us for years to come…’