Dev Tips – Designing Apps for Touch on Ultrabooks

Posted on 07 December 2012 by

windows 8 touch language_thumb[3]

We’ve covered the importance of Windows 8, the Windows 8 Store and Windows 8 apps before on Ultrabooknews. [Video and article here] and we’ll be bringing you more on software development, apps and opportunities in the future because we believe it’s one of the most important opportunities there is for developers right now. It’s also something we want to promote because for every Ultrabook and touch-enabled app that is launched, the Ultrabook product gets a little bit better. In an article over at the Intel Developer Zone you’ll find a great overview of the considerations you need to give when designing a touch-enabled application.

For example, when enhancing your application for touch, start by thinking about the three levels of touch you might want to build into the app. Is your application simply going to be 1) a ‘touchable’ app that has a slightly modified UI to help with touch or is the app a 2) ‘touch enabled’ application that can be driven easily with touch by using larger hit areas and gestures. Or is the app going to be a 3) ‘touch optimized’ app where the design, layout and gesture support has been designed from the ground up to make the app a touch-first experience.

If you’re looking at a top-level touch experience you’ll need to consider large hit areas, spacing, full gesture support along with momentum and inertia. Controls will also need to be placed in ‘hot’ areas of the screen.

A Windows 8 application targeted at a touchscreen should always be usable with touch only.

Read the article for some good design principles that will help in mapping out the application touch features. Make the experience intuitive, engaging and consistent. When we talk about consistency it also means making sure gestures follow expectations. Microsoft have published a list of gestures that form a ‘Windows 8 Touch Language’ and the more we implement those, the easier it becomes for users. Swipe-to-select is one of the important ones that needs attention right now.

Remember though, touch isn’t the panacea. In some cases keyboard or on-screen-keyboard is better so keep the limitations in mind and don’t stretch applications to touch where touch isn’t desirable. Here’s an example of a limitation: When you’ve got your finger over a button, you can’t see the button so don’t try and do anything with the button that the user might need to see.  The article goes over a wider set of these limitations.

Again, remember the size of a finger. It ranges from 8mm to 18mm with 11-15mm being the average so as a guideline hit areas need to be a minimum of 6mm square with enough spacing between them to reduce errors.

When designing for Windows 8 don’t forget the special properties of the Windows 8 user interface. Charms from the right swipe. Application controls with a swipe from the bottom. There’s also portrait, docked and pinned mode to consider.

WIn 8 UI modes_thumb[4]

We’re just skimming the surface of developing applications with touch on Ultrabooks. Read the article and with that in mind you’ll add a lot of value to your Windows 8 app and enable new usage scenarios and potentially reap some of the rewards waiting for developers in the Windows 8 Touchscreen arena.  For more detailed information about touch considerations for Windows 8 developers and a great [Really worth reading – Chippy] reading list, see this article from Intel.

This is a sponsored post brought to you by Intel and Ultrabooknews.  All content written by Ultrabooknews. Subject and source article by Intel. We thank Intel for their support of Ultrabooknews

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