This is a derivation of a post made on my personal website titled “Going from Reading to ReadWriting by Improving the Internet Tablet“, though tuned for this site’s audience. Reading both might bring more clarity towards the idea in its enterity. But I wanted to keep this centered for this audience as much as possible.
Like many who read this blog, I have invested a good deal of my mobile computing life into getting a device (or devices) and a set of services that works best for how I need to be productive in this quickly changing world. Unlike many, I know however, I tend to spend a lot of time in a browser, most of my working day in fact. Because of this association with the browser as a vital part of work and play, I’ve come to understand some of its shortcomings, and laud its benefits on whatever platform that I can.
Unfortunately, I cannot say that I have always been a fan of the Internet relayed to me on the Internet Tablet (IT). The reason is that while it does an excellent job in presenting to me the web that I can read, because of several aspects of the browser (and accompanying hardware/software issues), I cannot interact with it the way that an “internet tablet” should allow. If you will, Web 2.0 opened the door to an Internet that we did not just read but we also could compose. However, this central aspect of the web is not exploited on the IT. Moreover, I believe that this is one central reason why the user interface and user experience misses for the target audience and beyond.
Addressing UI (and UX) via Extensions
As some have already shown, the microB browser on the IT is capable of using extensions originally created for Firefox. However, for one reason or another, this has not jumpstarted the IT developer community towards making UI improvements.
For example, extensions in Firefox enable functionality such as blogging from any screen, saving bookmarks to online bookmarking services, taking screen shots, or even using embedded microformated content.
I propose addressing the UI items spoken about in previous posts here by developing extensions that do things like add a finger-sized scrollbar, or change the appearance of the address bar.
This does not get us to the point of readwriting the web though. To get to this point, the browser has to facilitate more than just consuming content. The easiest way to address this would be seeing a tighter integration between the microB browser and various web services.
For example, adding a content menu when one taps and holds on an image stating “Send to Flickr” or “Add to Flickr and Tag.” Or how about adding a content menu that would appear when text is highlighted that would ask if the information needs to be parsed into calendar/contact format, or automatically pasted into an email.
More than UI
Pushing the ability of the browser past just a portal to consumer content means that the UI has to do more than look good. It enables the IT user to craft a trend of using “internet anywhere” as a more normative view of using the Internet. When services are tasked with being able to plug-in efficiently to the said browser, a layer of “how” is breached for users so that “go” becomes the new how. We’ve seen how the rise of extensions for Firefox has allowed for users to create a personalized web that is and isn’t a part of the online experience. Given the personal and touchscreen natures of the IT, one could argue that doing the same would enable the same type of UI/UX shift.
Most of what I propose is more along the lines of user experience than the interface itself. Nevertheless, I’ll argue that the two have to dance more when it comes to addressing the usability of the IT. As a platform, until the device starts to push against the status quo, it will continue to just be viewed as a device that is one of many. And that it is, lest someone tears a page out of history and decides to use an Internet Tablet to write another. Then the web really begins to script life differently.