Any Port in a Storm: Novel Ways of Interacting with Our Devices

With smartwatches, sometimes your fingers just aren’t good enough for the task at hand. Fortunately, some ingenious users have found a suitable alternative for when those digits just won’t do: their nose.

That thing sticking out from your face is enough like a fingertip to act as one in situations where your hands might be wet, dirty, or separated from your device by a layer of gloves.

A nose tap reenactment on the Apple Watch.

A nose tap reenactment on the Apple Watch.

Our own research, as well as that of Apple Watch research firm Wristly.co, has found users have occasionally resorted to their nose, and at reasonable numbers, too. Wristly found in one of their surveys that 46% of respondents had used their nose on their watch, and another 28% hadn’t, but were willing to try.

While users are probably not opting to use their nose when their fingers will do, this usage pattern fits into a larger question of how we interact with our devices: What’s the best way to interact with a device at any given time? When do we or should we use touch versus voice, gesture versus mouse, nose versus finger?

What I love about the nose tap is that it’s something that happened with users out in the real world, with real world situations. It’s doubtful this sort of usage would have been found in the lab, and may not have been considered when the Apple Watch was being designed. After all, with California’s beautiful weather, one might not consider what a glove-wearing population has to go through.

But now with this knowledge, designers should be asking themselves, “will my users ever need to nose tap? If so, how do I make sure it will work for them?” It sounds a little silly, but it could make an app or feature more useful to some users. And researchers should also be asking the same questions.

This goes for any novel, unexpected way users interact with any product, software or hardware: why are they doing it that way, and what is it telling us about their needs or underlying problems?

And the best way to find those novel, unexpected interactions? By seeing (or at least asking) how people use these products in the real world.

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