Radical change is pointing all of us in the face -- the touch paradigm is fundamentally altering when, where, and how we interact with our data. Rapidly moving beyond handheld devices to laptops and other screens, a smart touch centric interface will become crucial to the success or failure of any digital initiative. By discussing concepts fundamental to understanding how touch impacts a broad array of essential topics, this article provides key insights into how to adapt to touch across all aspects of digital.
Touch will be everywhere, really soon
Touch has been around for a while, but only recently has it become more prevalent. As touch devices permeate the digital space, the only thing brand managers can predict with certainty is that nothing will be predictable. Tablets have been on the market for less than four years, but have already fundamentally shifted how people use computers. But the picture is larger than that. According to Mary Meeker, "This cycle of technology disruption is materially faster and broader than prior cycles" and showing up in many significant ways. Business that do not start to incorporate touch into all of their designs will quickly find themselves outdated and unable to catch up.
People expect it everywhere
Ever seen a little kid try to swipe the television after playing with a parent's tablet? Or seen a heavy tablet user reach for the computer screen to move some data before looking around furtively to see if colleagues noticed? As people start to use touch, they begin to expect it in more and more places. If they expect it and don't see it, they think it's broken. Intrinsically intuitive and inherently learnable, touch is poised to grow incredibly quickly outside of the handheld space. It's clear that the hardware and software manufacturers are both moving to touch across all platforms. Windows 8 is already running on massive wall sized monitors, as well as tabletop interfaces, and lends itself to staying consistent across different devices and inputs. OS X is supporting multitouch as well as Apple's gradual combination of touch friendly design elements and behaviors from iOS strongly suggests a move to touch screens. As touch hardware moves away from tablet form factors, and software manufacturers deploy touch-enabled operating systems, more and more users will evolve to expect tactile interfaces wherever they go. Think beyond tablet or smartphone apps to how web properties or desktop software will work in a touch environment, no matter where your users are or what they are doing.
Don't think in a straight line
It's cliché to "drive innovation," but all too often we limit our thinking about what touch means. This results in basic, one dimensional apps or sites which are insipid and limited in value to the consumer. Good touch design is more than just thinking about swipe, it's about how new devices and new interactions lead to entirely new ways of using technologies. Consumers expect innovation, and it is no longer enough for businesses to sit back and copy others. Up front due diligence is fundamental, such as competitor research and customer analysis, but some solid creative thought will make or break an experience. For example, don't think of touch only as a way to manipulate controls on the screen, and explore a tactile interface in conjunction with other design elements on the page. By considering the gestalt of the interaction with new touch-enabled devices, brands can come up with fun, engaging ways to talk to their users. Check out the thicket app to see an example of how touch, sound, and movement are combined to create a very immersive experience.