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Category: Design, Technology

On Wednesday of this week, Apple is expected to unveil their new tablet (edit: Apple iPad). The gang here at Monkeyfoot is incredibly excited, but not for the same reasons as most. While a new piece of Apple hardware will be awesome, it’s the thought of the new usability challenges it presents that have us giddy.

Usability and interface challenges in the mid 90s were fairly trivial compared to those of today. 256 available “web safe” colors, 640×480 resolutions were standard and websites didn’t consist of more than a handful of pages. In the late 90′s when Flash became mainstream, we were also dealing with larger variations in colors, resolutions and site depths.

Over the past 10 years or so, most of the variables became standardized. Colors are no longer an issue. Resolutions can be focused at 1024+ and the emergence of CSS has allowed us to address the variations gracefully. We’re still dealing with IE and the browser wars, but in general the development community has most of those issues sorted out.

The launch of the iPhone in 2007 gave usability experts a chance to flex their muscles once again. Memories of small resolutions in the 90′s flooded back to us, but this time we were faced with the challenge of a mouse pointer (the human finger) that was gigantic compared to the little arrow we’re used to. White space became vitally important, and we had to address how a user’s hand would be positioned to use the interface.

The Apple announcement this week will once again call usability experts into action. These challenges of an unknown resolution, framework, and interaction method are the equivalent of an old world explorer discovering new lands. The way we interact with the world around us is about to change. The internet will no longer be a place accessed from your home or office. Serious applications will be in the palm of our hands from now on. Usability experts, rejoice. The world is about to change and our services are required.

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