Designing Devices

★★★☆☆

Review:

A good short primer on how hardware design works and the decisions that go into building a device. Not extremely interesting because I was left wanting more detail, but it was a good overview and a helpful introduction to things like the difference between capacitative and resistive touchscreens.

★★★☆☆
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Highlights

A device without an interaction model will likely seem disjointed and made up of pieces, instead of as a whole. Pieces of functionality will work differently and the overall concept will be hard to grasp. Many mobile phones, appliances, and consumer electronics suffer from this problem. A solid interaction model is the basis for any great device.
Where is the user experience in this list of components? Why, it's in everything, really. A single faulty wire or spring can render a device inoperative. The greatest user interface or nifty feature means nothing if the device cannot turn on. User experience begins with performance, responsiveness, and reliability, and those characteristics are baked into the chosen components.
Great devices are aesthetically pleasing. "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." Thus said the godfather of the Arts & Crafts movement, William Morris.
Not being able to articulate succinctly why a customer would use your product and what need it fills in their lives is an enormous failure of product strategy. Not a line of code, not a sketch of form, not a chart in a marketing plan should ever be started without this crucial piece of knowledge.
In post-industrial design, data becomes a resource to be managed, the same way electricity is managed in traditional industrial design: it must be detected, acted upon, transferred, stored. Data, and the technologies that surround its management, have properties, truly physical properties, that while they cannot be seen, they can certainly, like gravity, be felt and experienced. Consider how close you have to stand to get a paper towel from a sensor-driven dispenser, or the length of time it takes to transfer a file via Bluetooth.
Another minus for resistive touchscreens is if the top layer isn't glass or other hard material, it can wear out over time. Commonly pressed areas can wear down and become difficult to trigger a press event. You see this often with high-use plastic touchscreens in industrial/commercial settings. Why then ever use a resistive touchscreen? Several reasons. Resistive touchscreens don't require glass, so they don't crack, and can be used in places such as bars, restaurants, and backs of taxis where they will get some punishing use. Many touchscreens that are outside should be resistive, if only for the simple reason that they can be used while wearing gloves in cold weather, because they don't need to conduct electricity from a finger to make them work. And, bottom line, resistive touchscreens are cheaper. Much cheaper.
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