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Industrial design

Industrial design

Runne(a)r phones- if you run, you need one (earphone mounted rotary knob volume control)

This is a product idea I have submitted on Quirky targeted at runners.
Changing the music volume (because of traffic, changing environmental noise) while running is always a hassle. Well, not any more, Runne(a)rphone’s here.
Vote here: (if you like it, and tell your friends about it too)

Runner earphones- with a rotary dial to solve volume changing woes Runner earphones- with a rotary dial to solve volume changing woes Runner earphones- with a rotary dial to solve volume changing woes Runner earphones- with a rotary dial to solve volume changing woes

The Problem

This product is a solution to a very specific problem- changing the volume of your music device while running.

When running, we often have to change the volume over the course of the run, especially if we’re running in the city. We come across different volumes of environmental noise (running by a busy road, passing by a construction site, what have you). This means we need to turn the music volume up and down quite a few times throughout the run.

Now changing the volume can be a pain, depending on where we’ve placed our music device. If we’re not using a remote control earphone, then we need to take it out of the pocket and change it, which means slowing down and distracting ourselves from simply enjoying our run. Even using an armband requires us to slow down or bit, or stop moving the arm its on to change the volume… not something we like to do when all we want to do is zone out.

A remote controlled earphone is no better (something I personally use) because we still need to temporarily slow our speed down and get hold of the volume control on the earphone wire. I certainly don’t enjoy it, and believe you don’t too.

The Solution

My solution to the volume changing hassle is an easy, ‘don’t make me think’ one. It is an earphone for runners, where the volume is controlled through the earphone itself rather than the music device.
The difference is that the volume is controlled through a rotary knob (just like those on the old television sets) and this knob is placed on the earphones itself (as you can see in the picture I’ve attached- the extruded portion is supposed to be the rotary knob).

Changing volume is as easy as rotating the knob on either headphone. This means we no longer have to slow down while running. We no longer have to get distracted from having to cumbersomely change the volume. It’s as simple as volume changing should be while running.

Key Features

The product is an earphone targeted at runners and joggers. It solves the specific issue of the cumbersome process of changing the volume of music over the course of a run. It is special because I believe there is no other solution out there which makes it as easy as the this product.

Product Comparison

I am aware of none at the moment

This Was The Most Popular Content on Cone Trees in 2009

Out of the near 50 posts that were made at Cone Trees in 2009, here is a compilation of what was most popular with you, dear readers. You will also find my list of suggested readings for each section (except for the articles section, where there were only three posts I made in the year).

Top 3 Articles

Most popular

  1. Tips for effective DIY Participant Recruitment for Usability Testing
  2. Increase Conversions in Long Web Forms by Resolving the Accidental Back Button Activation Issue
  3. Guidelines for conducting Effective and Efficient Meetings

Top 3 Blog Posts

Most popular

  1. jQuery Masked Input Plugin- Increase usability, input masks for text fields
  2. A Review of the Balsamiq Mockups wireframing application
  3. Usability spotter #5- HP laptop touch pads with scroll zones- absence of tactile cue

Suggested reading

  1. Usability Spotter #6- The Twitter login page password revelation issue
  2. Web Accessibility- our responsibility as Web Industry Professionals
  3. Usability Spotter #4: A Usability issue- Google Chrome Tab selection through the mouse

Top 3 Downloads

Most popular

  1. Download Axure ‘Clear input field value on focus’ prototype/ widget library
  2. Download Axure Touch Screen Hand Gestures Stencils
  3. 15 Tips for Effective Usability Testing in India

Suggested Downloads

  1. SEO through Accessibility- How designing accessible websites leads to automatic SEO
  2. A free Minutes of Meeting (MOM) template
  3. Cone Trees Wallpaper #2- Regenerate

Top 3 ‘News & Resources’

Most popular

  1. Pranav Mistry’s “Sixth Sense”, game-changing wearable technology- a talk by Patties Maes
  2. Web Accessibility- our responsibility as Web Industry Professionals
  3. Dan Roam on “The Way of the Whiteboard: Persuading with Pictures”

Suggested Viewing

  1. Don Norman on the three ways that good design makes you happy
  2. Kim Goodwin on designing a Unified User Experience- integrating Interaction, Visual & Industrial design
  3. Barry Schwartz talks about “The Paradox of Choice- Why Less is More”

Usability spotter #5- HP laptop touch pads with scroll zones- absence of tactile cue

The issue with HP laptops that have a touch pad with a scroll zone contained it (as shown in image A) is that they do not provide a tactile cue for the user to help interpret what section of the touch pad the finger is positioned at. In the absence of a tactile cue, it is difficult for the user to determine whether the finger is on touch pad or the scroll zone without looking at it, resulting in the accidental scrolling on the screen when actually the user simply wants to move the cursor. The issue and multiple solutions are discussed ahead.

The issue with HP laptop touchpads with scoll zones- Absence of a tactile cue

HP laptop touch pad with scroll zone
(Image A)

To be more precise, the issue described in this post refers to HP laptops and all other laptops that have touch pads with ‘scroll zones’ similar to the image (of the HP 6510B model) above.

Illustrating the usability issue with HP laptop touch pad with scroll zone

In the above illustration of the touch pad, you can see that the top view provides the user a visual cue to differentiate the mouse area and scroll zone. The side view however, illustrates the absence of relief to translate the visual cue to a tactile cue.

The users will receive the same consistent tactile feedback whether the finger is on the mouse area or the scroll zone. It is this absence of a tactile cue that reduces chances of error free operation of the touch pad without the aid of visual feedback (the user looking at the touch pad).

While the user can estimate the position of their finger in the touch pad’s horizontal space by either orienting through visual feedback or by tactile feedback alone (by feeling the edges of the sunken touch pad to get an idea of the width of the entire touch pad), relying upon the user to do so correctly in all situations is a design compromise. Especially when the user is working in a hurry or busy, there is not much attention the user can allocate to such a task when concentrating on accomplishing an important goal. Error in touch pad operation at this time will understandably be more frustrating for the user.

Error criticality in this case might not be significant but frequency of the issue definitely is. Considering that Image A is a picture of an HP business laptop (6510B), and the fact that business laptops are all about increasing productivity, this should be a valid case for HP to work upon the stated touch pad usability issue.

Solution- Introduction of a tactile cue in the touch pad

A logical solution to the issue is to providing a tactile cue will allow the user to operate the touch pad in an error free manner with the tactile cue acting as an effective indicator of the different sections contained in the touch pad. This will allow the user to only rely on their finger to determine accurately where the finger is on the touch pad without having to resort to utilizing to their sense of sight which should be focussed towards the monitor.

What would be an effective tactile cue? The solutions described below describe two different concepts to building a tactile cue in with the common goal of helping the user effectively determine which section is the finger placed upon. through tactile feedback alone.

1. Using a tactile cue to notifying the user of zone boundaries

Illustrating solution three of the usability issue with HP laptop touch pad with scroll zone

The above illustration elevated the surface along a line to create a ridge to serve as a demarcation. This ridge acts as an effective tactile cue for the user to interpret whether the finger is upon the mouse area or scroll zone.

2. Tactile differentiation

Tactile patterns can be used to provide differentiated tactile feedback for the different touch pad sections.

2.1 Tactile differentiation through utilization of a horizontal line tactile pattern

Illustrating solution one of the usability issue with HP laptop touch pad with scroll zone

This solution uses the visual marking (see Image A) to form a tactile cue. The visual cue (horizontal lines) is converted to a tactile cue, that is- the horizontal lines are converted to low relief. This might be done by using an ink that creates a low relief when printing the horizontal lines. It is important that the relief be extremely low and just enough for the user to sense differentiation in texture from the smooth mouse area.

2.2 Tactile differentiation through application of a solid-rough tactile pattern

Illustrating solution three of the usability issue with HP laptop touch pad with scroll zone

A solid-rough tactile pattern or otherwise may be used to create extremely low relief on the existing touch pad surface that will allow the user to differentiate the scroll zone from the mouse area’s smooth surface.

Your thoughts?

What are your thoughts on such touch pads without tactile cues? Have you used a laptop with such a touch pad? Was it easy to use, tough or frustrating? I would like to know.