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Toward mouselessness.

By Jason Wilson

For power users, the idea of going mouseless is nothing new. For consumers (READ: lawyers) though, it is a significant change. Most people haven’t and wouldn’t see the need in adopting the “no duh!” shortcuts of advanced computer users. Sure, sure, we will acknowledge that keyboard shortcuts are probably more efficient, but I simply don’t want to take the time to have to learn something (many things) new. Seriously, I have to know that using the slash (“/”) will initiate a find on a page? Why do I want to know that?

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been using an iPhone. It required no formal training in swiping, tapping, or otherwise moving digital objects sans mouse. It felt natural, except for the keyboard. But it wasn’t compelling, meaning it didn’t make me look at my desktop or laptop and say, why can’t I interact with you in the same way? The iPad, however, is compelling. I carry it around all the time and it is becoming more and more of an extension. It is making me wish my desktop environment were different. Perhaps unrelated, it is actually making me hate “The Ribbon.” And for you Office users out there, you know what I mean.

The point of all this is to say that we are approaching a moment where some interesting UX issues are going to start popping up in unexpected (desktop) spaces, and I’m not sure how it will affect the manner and efficacy of consuming information, particularly for our jobs. Two websites have recently come to my attention (here and here) that rely on the familiar AWSD or arrow-key movement. No mouse required to navigate through either website, although for one you still need to drag + click to select. The obviousness of interacting with the webpage is lost beyond the arrow-key movements, but perhaps is regained in a touch environment, similar to the Wired iPad app, if you’ve had a chance to play around with it. I have no idea, but I like the idea of reading online content this way (that is, without a mouse and without thinking). We’ve never really made the keyboard and screen seem natural in this way, have we?

So what does this silly observation mean? I think for content creators and designers, we need to be concerned about the iPad effect. Forget the iPhone 4, Droid whatever, or Windows Mobile 7. It is the large appliance any two-year old can use that is telling us our ideas of how we should be (want to be) physically manipulating and interacting with digital objects (content) are changing, and probably faster than we think. And I don’t think this is bleeding edge stuff either. I think the community is ready for it.

[Image (cc) by regocasasnovas]

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