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Introducing Windows Phone 8 : Input Patterns

12/10/2012 6:04:47 PM
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You are the developer. You want users to want to use your applications. That means you must deal with the different ways the phone can accept user input. Developing for the Web or desktop means you are primarily dealing with designing for the keyboard and mouse. But when developing for the phone, you have to change the way you look at input and consider that the user is going to interact with your application in different ways. Interaction patterns for the phone include touch, keyboards (hardware and software), hardware buttons, and sensors.

Designing for Touch

The UX design language for the phone is specifically constructed to make sure the interface is treating touch as a first-class citizen and that the interface requires no training (i.e., is intuitive). By building a design language that defines the elements of a touch-based interface, Microsoft has made it easier to build such interfaces. The design language includes guidelines for what touch gestures are supported, as well as how to space and size elements for finger-size interactions. Figure 1 shows an example from UX design guide that defines the minimum sizes for touch points and their spacing.

Figure 1. Windows Phone’s interactive element sizes


The Windows Phone also defines the types of interactions (e.g., touch gestures) the device supports. Most of these interactions are well-worn gestures that have been the vocabulary of other touch devices such as the iPhone, Zune HD, and Android. These interactions include

• Single touch:

• Tap

• Double-Tap

• Pan

• Flick

• Touch and Hold

• Multitouch:

• Pinch/Stretch/Rotate

In addition to specifying the types of gestures, the Windows Phone specifies the use cases for each interaction. For example, the Double-Tap interaction is specifically used to zoom in and zoom out. This use case is explicitly different from what the typical desktop Windows developer might expect. But for the sake of consistency, the UX Design Language maps out what the user should expect with these interactions. While the design language would not be read by actual users, it would be the basis for the phone’s built-in application. Interactions of your applications should match the rest of the phone, therefore adhering to the principle of least surprise for the user. This also hints at the reality that the phone design is not supposed to be based on users’ expectations of how Windows works, but be more obvious than that. The touch interaction is much different from a mouse, and the overall hope (as far as I can tell) is to help users get a feel for the right interaction without training them.

Hardware Buttons

Windows Phone requires that each phone has three hardware buttons on the front of the device.These three buttons have discrete actions. The only one you really need to concern yourself with is the Back button. Not only should the Back button move the user from your application to the last running application (the default behavior), it should also allow the user to move from state to state in your application. As you develop applications for the phone, be aware of what the user might expect from the Back button. Taking advantage of this can make your application even more intuitive.


Since not all interactions will be simple gestures but must be able to support text entry, the UI Design and Interaction Guide stipulates that a software keyboard (or Soft Input Panel or SIP) should be available for every text entry (as even in a keyboarded phone, users should be able to type on the screen). Keyboards are provided by the operating system by default. As users attempt to edit text (e.g., the user taps on a text box) the operating system displays a software keyboard to enable touch-based keyboard entry. Figure 2 shows the default keyboard.

Figure 2. Default keyboard


The style guide also specifies that the keyboards should be contextually relevant depending on the type of text to be typed. For example, Figure 3 shows an email keyboard and a phone number keyboard.

Figure 3. Contextual keyboards


While there are a number of layouts, the phone includes some standard layout for specific use cases, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Sample Keyboard Layouts



You should consider that not all the input to the phone is typical. It is important that you, the application developer, open your mind to different types of input. Windows Phone supports a number of sensors that will allow you to take input in these different forms (see Table 2).

Table 2. Sensors

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