User Interaction Experiences: Adaptive vs. Conventional

After the iOS 7 Developer Preview was released in June 2013, I had the opportunity to try out the new software for myself. Being an avid Apple supporter and fanatic, I was extremely excited to check out one of the most talked about topics regarding iOS7, flat design.

After I pressed the home button to unlock the phone, I arrived at the lock screen. That’s when it happened. I tried to unlock the phone but after several failed attempts I thought to myself, how is it that I, a mobile visual designer, am unable to simply get past the lock screen? I felt like I was an 80-year-old using a mobile device for the first time. I was frustrated and baffled. Why did I have such a horrible user experience?

Three words: Adaptive User Interaction.

Adaptive User Interaction is a type of interaction that is used to adjust to a particular type of situation. In the case of the newly designed lock screen, there was an arrow pointing upwards placed beneath the “slide to unlock” text. Therefore, my adaptive behavior was to swipe upwards because of the visual cue, the arrow beneath the “slide to unlock” text. Why did I react this way? Is it because I am a designer and naturally look for visual cues to aid in my understanding? Is it because of the proximity of the two elements on the screen? Whatever the case, I was not the only person who came across this unpleasant interaction.

However, there are many people who did not have the same experience as myself. The users who were able to successfully unlock the screen without even thinking were practicing Conventional User Interaction. Conventional User Interaction is a type of interaction that is based on what is generally done or commonly practiced. In previous versions of iOS design, the user swipes to the right, on top of the “slide to unlock” text to unlock the phone. The users who successfully unlocked the phone without any frustration most likely relied on their conventional behavior. Based on their previous interactions, they remembered to swipe to the right, on top the of the “slide to unlock” text to unlock the phone.

So, what does the future hold for user interactions? I believe the transition of user interactions will be similar to the transition of user interface design. When smartphones and tablets were initially introduced, they included skeuomorphic interfaces to help users learn how to use the device. Skeuomorphism is a design principle in which user interface elements resemble objects from the physical world. Once people understood how to the use the device, the interface design began to transform into a less skeuomorphic design and into a more flat, minimal design. I believe conventional user interaction will rein king until the majority of the mobile population accepts, practices, and fully understands conventional interactions. Eventually, I believe there will be a point when adaptive user interaction becomes more prevalent in user experience. But like they say, you’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.


Written by Kathryn

Leave a Reply