Windows 8 Touch Screen

In my last post we discussed why touch responsiveness is necessary to make the application appealing, efficient and user-friendly. We are discussing different parts of touch-friendly Office 2013 apps that have gone major change in order to run efficiently on touchscreen devices. In this, second, post I’ll be discussing ‘targeting’ on touchscreen devices in Windows 8 and why Office needs to have improved targeting in its latest Office applications. By targeting we mean how easy it is to press a button on a touchscreen with a finger (or a thumb) without pressing / initiating any other event unintentionally. If you want to press character ‘a’ button then the app must recognize that you are trying to press character ‘a’ not character ‘s’ which is located right after it on a QWERTY virtual keypad.

Yes, it is very easy to target objects with the help of stylus but most of the touch devices’ users prefer using their thumb or fingers which are considerably wider than the sharp end of stylus. So optimizing the application for fingers and thumb will be a better option.

If you ever had an experience of dealing with a Windows 8 touch screen tablet then you might have found a problem that is very commonly faced by several touchscreen-device users i.e. pressing wrong button unintentionally. Sometimes we come across applications that are so poorly designed that we have to strive a lot to press the desired button. Sometimes, the user tries to press a button but wrong button is pressed and sometimes the user tries to press the button but the application doesn’t even come know that something has happened. Such applications are very poorly designed for touch and often they become a headache for the user and user just remove them from their device. In order to avoid getting removed and get accepted and loved just like on desktop computer systems, the new Office 13 Tablet PC apps take much care of this fact.

The Windows team did a rigorous research and have developed guidelines for hit target sizes which the Office team implemented through out their design. One of the best solutions to increase the touch precision was to make the buttons bigger and apart from other buttons. The new OneNote and Lync Windows 8-style apps were designed thoroughly to find out that the new implementation works easily. The desktop applications are designed with the precision of mouse pointer in mind so one doesn’t have to care a lot about how small the buttons are and how closely they are packed. But in case of touch edition the application must follow certain rules to have an intuitive design. The Office 2013 app development team divided the user interface into two parts: Fixed part and contextual part.

Fixed part is the part that will remain visible on the screen such as ribbons, folders in outlook and Quick Access Toolbar.

Contextual part is the part that appears once a certain event has been occurred. A very suitable example is the right-click on your traditional Windows desktop that makes a menu appear from where you can refresh your screen. Other examples include context menu and minibar.

There are two modes introduced in the Office. Touch mode on and Touch mode off. In the touch mode on, the fixed part of the user interface is expanded and a fair amount of distance is created between the buttons on the QAT so they can be targeted accurately and in contextual part of the UI the size of the items in the context menus is increased dramatically because user will proceed only when he/she have chosen something in the dropdown menu (though not necessary) so this will help a lot in pressing the correct button. Charts and pictures got handles with increased size in touch mode.

Besides all these, through certain Windows 8 APIs the app can make sure what the user wants to touch besides relying on the first contact point of the finger.