Touch-a, touch-a, touch-a, Touch Me...

By Jason Griffey |

With the launch of the iPad and the development of desktops like the Lenovo c200, I'm starting to think that we need to stop thinking in terms of the size/resolution of the screen and positioning when doing web design. Instead, we need to really start thinking about digital objects, and how we physically interact with them.

Using the iPad for just a few days has really brought this into focus for me. We are used to mediated interactions with digital objects, using a tool as an intermediary or proxy. We've been interacting by metaphor, instead of directly. The mouse pushes a cursor around the screen, and the cursor interacts with the object (window, file, text) that we're interested in. On a touchscreen, especially the modern touchscreen, you are interacting with the digital world directly. For those who haven't had this experience, I can't emphasize how much this changes the relationship between the information and the user. It's visceral in a way that surprised me, and is it's possible to build systems that are intuitive beyond simple intellectual understanding. Witness this great video of a 2.5 year old and an iPad....she's interacting WITH the device, and with the information. She's not telling it what to do, she's doing it. This is a huge leap for interaction design.

Some libraries have made steps in this direction already, with the work that libraries like DOK and librarians like Will Kurt at the University of Nevada - Reno have been doing with the Microsoft Surface. I think that the iPad puts this in a different perspective, though. Instead of creating applications that run on $10K pieces of furniture like the Surface, we're going to have to start thinking about the presentation of our general information resources via Touch interfaces. How would someone search your catalog if they had to do so with no mouse? How can we present our resources in a Touch-Friendly interface?

I'm thinking a lot about this in relation to our New Building Project at MPOW. We're going to want "quick search" terminals all over our collections floor, but I don't want to have to fool with pedestals and displays and all of the wires. What I want is a magic window that I can hang on the wall that shows our patrons the catalog and a map of the floor, and when they search for an object, shows them where it is on the floor...all with them simply touching the screen itself. The iPad is the first piece of technology in a long time that honestly feels to me like magic. I want that for our interfaces and our resources.