In well thought out UI design, certain characteristics or visual cue’s are used to subtly prompt the user into responding a certain way. On a basic level this would include blue underlines on HTML to indicate that the link is clickable.
A more advanced example is the unlock screen on an iphone. I can see 6 different visual cues that tell me what to do. There is the 3D depth indicating this is like a mechanical slider similar to that of a public toilet lock. Then there is the arrow, the text “Slide to Unlock” and if you are still unsure as to the direction, the text lights up in horizontal cascade from left to right. During the slide the text is cut away showing an action and when you meet the end point you are given a satisfying click which aurally communicates “now open”.
In contrast I remember I had a Panasonic mobile phone in 2001 that forced me to press a menu button and the “#” key for 2 seconds to lock the phone. It was a different combination to unlock it again. I never got it right first time.
I digress, so what are the visual cues necessary to garner tactile user interaction with paper, a traditionally uninteractive medium (in the digital sense).
Humans have interacted with paper for thousands of year, since 192BC when sources state it was brought over to the UK from china.
Perhaps though, it is our past and present relationship with paper creates this UI dichotomy.
As an example, what if someone swapped the break and accelerator pedal on your car. You would at first unconsciously revert back to pre-programmed routines, only to panic and try try swapping pedals. There would be sweating, swearing and probably mild sobbing.
A less extreme example could be observed with ink on paper. Out-with the design bubble I/we live in, there are very few of us who would see a printed matt black circuit on a sheet of paper and think, “Oh, that might be conductive circuit, I’m going to touch the crap out of that”.
Ask yourself, what would my mother do? Grandmothers, teachers, parents, children, bankers, policy makers & CEO’s will all have their own understanding of what paper does and what they use it for. I’m fairly sure, making electronics doesn’t rank on their list. For most, at its basic level, paper is used as mostly unidirectional communication method.
I did some research to see if I could find shapes and forms that say “Touch Me” or “Scribble on me”. See below.