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Planning a UI interface for a Smartphone

1 September 2013
Anat Bielsky

The emergence of Smartphones into our lives and their increased use, forces the planners and constructers of Smartphone applications and websites to answer the new needs created due to the use of this platform.

When planning an application / website adapted for a Smartphone, we should take its characteristic properties into consideration.

  1. A use of gestures in order to operate the device: when using the computer version, we use a mouse and keyboard. When using a Smartphone, we use gestures such as:

  • Tapping in order to click the computer mouse.

  • Dragging in order to scroll or move a platform.

  • Flick in order to skim quickly between items, such as pictures in an album.

  • Pinch close/open in order to zoom in or out.

*There is usually nothing in the interface that suggests the use of gestures (besides the help menu) and they are usually learned through using the site/application and using common gestures such as those described above.

  1. Screen display: the display of most Smartphones is adapted to the direction in which the device is held, i.e. when the user holds the phone horizontally or vertically the display changes accordingly.

  2. In order to overcome the lack of tactile feedback (the feeling of mouse/keyboard), integrate the use of two senses, such as sight and touch (vibration) or sight and sound.

  3. Small screen size: screen size affects

    • Reading the text- approximately 5 lines of text avg. without scrolling. Therefore, if lots of text is presented it is difficult for the user to read it.

    • Navigating in the screen: navigating and clicking on the screen is performed by the user's finger. Therefore, if the links in the screen are too close to each other or the number of links is too large the finer will have a hard time focusing on the correct link. This may cause frustration, as the user might click on buttons he/she did not intend to.

  4. Use of movement: the Smartphone serves the users always, including when they on the move. This is critical when the user needs to type something on the phone (which in some cases can be cumbersome even when not on the move).

  5. Response speed of the Smartphone: Since the Smartphone has a weaker processor than a PC or laptop computer, and occasionally the internet connection is slower (especially when the user is one the move) the applications and websites should be easily uploaded in order to provide optimal response time.

  6. Target audiences: the availability of smart cellular devices nowadays enables access to users of a range of various target audiences, from children to adults from all segments of the population.

When characterizing an interface of a Smartphone, it is important to plan the unique experience adapted for the needs of the mobile phone and its users. We must understand who is the application/website's target audience, what they expect to find in it, where and why they approached the website/application.


Tips for planning an interface for a website/application for a Smartphone:

  • Keep it simple: the site/application should be simple to navigate through without too many depth levels (up to 3 levels is recommended).

  • Number of controls on screen: up to 4-5 controls on the screen in order to prevent clicking mistakes.

  • Easy uploaded screen: use of quickly uploaded code and graphics for the screen.

  • A use of applications that ease the use of the website/application and provide a user friendly site, such as:

    • Search: uploading relevant search results in order to save time and prevent the need for unnecessary typing as well as saving previous searches performed by the user.

    • Adapting the content according to the user's location: a context oriented search in accordance with the user's location, adapting content in accordance with the user's location (for example, restaurants nearby).

    • Use of filters in order to focus information.

  • Providing suggestions of links with similar content in order to ease the user's navigation.

  • Highlighting the important information: the needs of a Smartphone user may differ from the needs of a PC/laptop user. For example, sites viewed on a PC can emphasize content while Smartphone sites will more emphasize the search of content, specifically a location-oriented one.


In conclusion, we can say that the planning of a UI interface for a Smartphone is totally different from a UI interface for a website presented on a PC. The advantages provided by the Smartphone should be utilized in order to overcome the challenges this platform enfolds.




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