Missing gestures

A very useful site I encountered some time ago is a television schedule and guide, which presents its information in informative timelines and tables. Over the holidays (when television viewing is disproportionately high) this proves to be an invaluable reference. Certainly more accurate than the printed guide, which this year fell fowl of inter-station rivalry as they made last minute adjustments to beat the competition.

Of course, it should be obvious to anyone that combining this service with a tablet browser while sitting in front of the TV should be perfect. I thought so, until I tried to find out anything about the various TV shows and films on offer. On the desktop browser this was easy. Just move the mouse over the various listings and you would instantly see copious details about each offering displayed in a floating box nearby. Very easy to use. Intuitive. And totally impossible on a tablet.

Mouse gestures are obviously missing from any device devoid of a mouse, or (simulated) equivalent. There is no “mouse over” or “hover”. OK, in theory the technology for such a feature is possible, if you use a proximity sensor that does not rely on contact. (Wacom offer something along these lines in some of their touchpad products.) The typical tablet, and possibly every tablet, is not so equipped.

So I had to resort to all kinds of tricks to get the box of information to appear. The only reliable action that I could devise was to hold my finger on the TV show title long enough to cause the “select text” to appear, then let go. This caused the text highlight handles to appear, along with the text edit toolbar at the top, and the selected region would reposition to the centre of the screen, but a side-effect was the activation of the information box that normally would appear during a mouse-over. The box would appear at a random location, perhaps due to the appearance of the toolbar and the centring of the text.

Maybe we should standardize on equivalent gestures. A variation on the pinch perhaps? Or the three-fingered drag? Or maybe a special mode that says your finger is just hovering? Or perhaps a “hovering” button (which could display a mouse cursor to emphasise this mode of use)?

Or maybe it’s time to abandon the mouse gestures…

Rendering of Web pages used to be a considerable challenge when new form factors appeared. We have become quite good at this in recent years. But adaptive user interaction still has a long way to go.

Categorised as: Hardware, Technology

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