• Charlotte Maumus

Mobile UI: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Photo by Anastasia Dulgier on Unsplash

Remember the Zack Morris phone on Saved by the Bell? I think we can agree that a lot has changed in the world of mobile since then. We can do some amazing things on our devices now, from streaming movies to controlling the lights in our home to pretending the water on our beach vacation really was the bluest thing ever. (It wasn’t, Janice. You’re not the only one who’s ever been to the Bahamas…or has Insta filters!)


But where we at memwris can’t agree is that while smartphones have been ubiquitous for over a decade, there are still a ton of tasks that are either painful or completely impractical.


After all this time, mobile UI still feels like the tech version of a fake designer bag or counterfeit hundo…As good as it looks at first glance, it just doesn’t cut the mustard.


Frankly, we’re tired of it. If you’re as frustrated as we are, rest easy; our team at memwris is completely rethinking mobile UI that aims to fix some of these issues because it’s time to be able to do big things with your small screen. Doing actual work, included.


So what are the biggest hurdles when it comes to mobile UI? Here are some thoughts on the good, the bad, and the ugly:


Muscle Memory

Thanks to muscle memory, I only know my password if I’m typing it. It’s also one of the most important parts of efficient UI work — so important, in fact, that we named our company for the muscle memory in your wrists. For mobile to be more efficient, muscle memory needs to be a bigger part of the mobile UI experience.

The Good: Limited muscle memory is possible — it’s one of the reasons that some smartphones are able to do away with home buttons. But a lot of precision is still required, and no-look functionality is definitely not an option.

The Bad: A lot. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to complete a repetitive task without having to look at your screen? Unfortunately, muscle memory and accuracy are at odds with each other simply because our fingers are so large in comparison to these small screens. Also, forget about keyboard shortcuts or keyboard-driven interfaces on mobile — imagine trying to hold down the equivalent of shift + command + 4 on a phone screen.

Our Rating: 1/5


Software Keyboard & Text Input

While physical keyboards are superior to on-screen keyboards for accuracy and efficiency, we’re focusing on software keyboards simply because tactile mobile keyboards are becoming relics. In our opinion, that’s a bummer for the programmers and wordy emailers among us. Alas, here we are.

The Good: Ummmm…your cat has to try much harder than she would on a physical keyboard to step on everything and turn your code into adkgadknfgakjrbgapiuerbbbbbbb or an email to your boss into a typo-filled nightmare that convinces the company you need a drug test.

The Bad: Most of it, particularly accuracy and speed. Without leaning on predictive text, you may think you’re texting “i love you, mom,” but really you’re spelling out “u lobe bum.” And, have you ever tried editing a big document or hundreds of lines of code on your phone? You probably found yourself longing for your laptop after about 15 seconds.

Our Rating: 1/5


Navigation/Finger-As-Cursor

Shhhh…do you hear that? Of course not, because you’re not clicking a manual cursor or dragging a mouse across your desk. But for mobile, while still quiet, guess what? Using your finger as the cursor is the same thing as dragging the mouse around. And for navigation, your gestures are tied to the physical dimensions of the screen. That said, you might get carpal tunnel from scrolling through 600 apps or searching an ebook for a passage you forgot to bookmark.

The Good: Finding app number 50 that you downloaded? Swipe away — after so many years on mobile, your wrist knows that action like the, um, back of your hand. And the touch mechanics of mobile UIs operate pretty much the same as the point-and-click features you grew up with. Sadly, like most things on our list, these functions just aren’t good enough.

The Bad: We dare you to clock how long it takes to find line seven on page 12 of that document you’re editing. Chances are, you’re either only two pages in or miraculously on page 45 without realizing how you got there. Not to mention, the finger-as-cursor functionality creates problematic movements on mobile screens of all sizes. Since small screens mean small visuals, your fingers can block your view. On large screens, you’re awkwardly and inefficiently reaching across the device — sorry to the guy I elbowed yesterday at the coffee shop.

Our Rating: 2/5


Minimalism

We’ve learned that minimalism has major value for programmers and day-to-day mobile users. Minimalist software takes the approach of doing one or two things and doing it/them really well. Unfortunately, the expertise in those areas results in other failings.

The Good: Traditional applications can be designed with a minimal aesthetic. In theory, this can feel really nice — no hoops to jump through or unnecessary bells and whistles to navigate.

The Bad: Because each app specializes in one or two tasks, you’re often dealing with numerous environments that all have unique interfaces to be “learned.” All of the sudden, this minimalism is causing maximum headaches.

Rating: 1/5


Sooooo…As you can tell, we’re less than impressed with mobile UI as it stands today. We aren’t trying to be all Negative Nancy, but we know something better is possible — a mobile UI capable of doing real work. That’s what the memwris team is working on.


We realize we may not have covered everything that gives you headaches when you’re interacting with your phone or tablet. So let us know: what did we miss?

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