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Engaging users in interactions with keyless devices

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Engaging users in interactions with keyless devices

Client confidential

As we inch closer to phones with all-screen designs, physical buttons are on the chopping block. But how do you interact with a smartphone that has no buttons? A mobile device manufacturer asked Experientia to develop two navigation frameworks for a concept device.

3 things to know

  1. A new language - The focus was on creating a new language of interacting with a buttonless device, not just on isolated substitutes.

  2. Research driven - Experientia explored the industry extensively before starting the design work, and even involved cognitive psychologists and UX specialists in an initial exploration of challenges and opportunities.

  3. Physical prototype - We created a working physical prototype of one interaction to make our design proposal more impactful.

Context
According to Wired, we will see more keyless phones in the coming years and this for a number of reasons, mainly the trend towards a “seamless unibody” design and wraparound displays, and the need to place a 5G antenna which doesn't leave much space for buttons particularly when combined with wraparound displays.

Challenge
But how do you navigate a device that has no physical buttons? How do you turn it on and off? How do you change the volume? Take a screenshot? Do a hard reset? Make a picture?
That was the challenge that a mobile device manufacturer asked Experientia to explore.
We developed two different navigation frameworks, and prototyped the interaction of one example thus demontrating how such an interaction would work.

Research
Experientia conducted a benchmark of a series of devices that taught us that OEM's do not in general redesign the interaction framework much. It is just a new feature on top of a familiar interaction. We mapped the state of the art in the keyless design space but also looked at other inspiring explorations in new form factors.
This was followed by an in-depth heuristic evaluation of two devices: an expert evaluator assessed and simulated in a controlled use context how “first time users” would approach the new devices and how they would perform typical navigation activities.
Finally we invited 3 cognitive psychologists and 3 UX specialists to a workshop which helped us define a range of design challenges and opportunities.

Design
Our work always started using scenarios of concrete use in daily life. Because of confidentiality, we cannot provide many details on the navigation frameworks we designed. They were made concrete through a number of use cases.
A functioning physical prototype allowed us to demonstrate how interaction would work for one of the common functions now conducted with physical buttons (volume control).
Finally, one of the frameworks was tested with actual users, using the functioning physical prototype.

Impact
The result of our work was internally presented at various levels and is now being taken forward.

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