Since Microsoft Surface has the form of a table it offers a unique way of social interaction around a computer. Users can sit around the table and participate on equal terms. To be able to achieve this, the designers and developers must focus very hard on creating a user interface and a user experience that supports 360 degree user interface. This, I would say, is one of the biggest challenges for a team building successful applications for Microsoft Surface and something that we always focus on early in the design process.
Yesterday I attended a Surface workshop were we planned an application that might have an advisor-client user profile. With that I mean one professional sitting on one side of the table and the client(s) sitting on the other side. It could be in a bank with an employee and a client or at health facility with a physician and a patient. Based on our previous experiences we still focused on a 360 degree user interface but in that context, is that really necessary? Couldn’t it be okay to have the user interface mainly focus the unfrequent users, i.e. the client or patient?
I think so! And today I saw a video of a banking application that does exactly that. Take a look at Hawanedo Surface from Figlo. They have created an application for the financial industry to offer financial advice on Microsoft Surface. The user interface is entirely facing the two clients at the bank and I believe that is great in that context. If you were to build an application like that with 360 degree user interface chances are that you would end up with a worse outcome.
So when designing application for Microsoft Surface, think about the physical context of where the application will exist and how your users will be placed around the table when they interact with it. Also don’t just create individual personas but also groups of personas and design the application for them.
Hopefully I will be able to tell you more about the application that we are planning in the near future.
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