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General Issues - Tactile effects library

When designing a user interface, keep in mind the ultimate experience of the user. Spend a fair amount of time planning before creating the first effect. Answer several basic questions:

There are certainly other questions of this type which go into the planning process for any new interface design project.

Once defined and taking shape in your mind, consider the the following for the project:

Simple sensations are often the most effective. It is sometimes surprising to realize that something like a very simple Pop or Click sensation, created in seconds in Immersion Studio, can bring a menu to life. An effective, satisfying interface can keep users navigating through to other areas of a website, or make them keep coming back to a deftly touch-enabled productivity application, because they like the feel of it. And there's no doubt about it: simple is often very satisfying. A designer does not have to make wildly complex effects to make a compelling user interface. If it's needed, however, complexity is at the designer's fingertips.

Sensations which fit in with graphical and sound content in time and space make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Seeing, hearing, and feeling an object or activity, where the visual, audio, and tactile parts are well-synchronized in time and space, and where each part is as realistic as possible, draws a user in to the presentation in a way just seeing and hearing alone cannot. Throughout our lives, the sense of touch is so inextricably linked to the physical, real world, that a user who feels tactile sensations from a computer has much more of an experience of "really being there." In contrast, poor synchronization of tactile content with other content in time can actually be distracting to a user, and detract from the experience. A little care and planning here goes a very long way in making an exceptional final product.

It's bad to annoy the user. Poorly designed touch sensations can be annoying and counterproductive. While a high-pitched buzz may be very effective as part of an alert or other occasional effect intended to grab attention, continuous high-pitched buzzing which occurs frequently will eventually cause a user to leave the site or application, annoyed. Remember the BLINK tag in HTML? It's not used much anymore. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you don't have to be careful with how or where you do it. The same goes for effects which prevent a user from doing something. If a game player cannot fix on a target because he is being thrown around by his joystick, or if a web surfer cannot select a menu item because her full force-feedback mouse is pushing her hand around wildly, these users are not likely to have good feelings about the game or website as a whole. Preventing this type of result is entirely a matter of thoughtful interface design.

It's bad to confuse and overwhelm the user. Just as too many beautiful sounds played simultaneously become a cacophony, too many compelling touch sensations played together or too close to each other in time and space can become muddy and overwhelming. Each individual sensation will lose its impact, and the user will get tired quickly. Tactile sensations should be placed and spaced so each one has the intended impact on the user, and doesn't blur into the other sensations (unless, of course, this is the intended effect). At the same time, too few or too sparsely spaced effects will disrupt the tactile continuity of the presentation. A decision to create a tactile interface requires a commitment to incorporate enough touch sensations as well, not just throw in one or two here and there for novelty.

Familiarity eases the user experience. Tactile effects can relay important information to a user, which might not be available or practical to provide through graphics or sound. As such, the collection of touch sensations in a website, game, or application becomes a sort of language that the user learns to facilitate navigation and understanding. Limiting the tactile language to a manageable, reused set of sensations makes the user's learning process easier, because there is less tactile "terminology" to remember.

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