The Pen is Mightier with the User’s Experience

If you’re involved in enterprise user experience (UX) it will come as no surprise that the humble pen and paper remains in widespread use for everyday business.

Sales reps, for example, are forever quickly scribbling down opportunity info. HR pros use them widely. Accountants? Check. At most meetings you will find both pen and paper and digital technology on the table.

That’s what UX is all about, understanding all the tools, technology, and job aids, and the rest, that the user touches along that journey to getting the task done.

Although Steve Jobs famously declared that the world didn’t need another stylus, innovation in digital styli, or digital pens (sometimes called smartpens), has never been greater.

Microsoft is innovating with the device, h/t @bubblebobble. Apple is ironically active with patents for styli, and the iPen may be close. Kickstarter boasts some great stylus ideas such as the Irish-designed Scriba (@getbscriba), featured in the Irish Times.

It is the tablet and the mobility of today’s work that has reinvigorated digital pen innovation, whether it’s the Apple iPad or Microsoft Surface.

Livescribe Echo smartpen and notebook

Livescribe Echo smartpen and notebook

I’ve used digital pens, or smartpens, such as the Livescribe Echo for my UX work. The Echo is great way to wireframe or create initial designs quickly and to communicate the ideas to others working remotely, using a pencast.

Livescribe Echo pencast viewed from the desktop

Livescribe Echo pencast viewed from the desktop

Personally, I feel there is a place for digital pens, but that the OG pen and paper still takes some beating when it comes to rapid innovation, iteration, and recall, as pondered on UX StackExchange.

An understanding of users demands that we not try to replace the pen and paper altogether but to enhance or augment their use, depending on the context. For example, using the Oracle Capture approach to transfer initial strokes and scribbles to the cloud for enhancement later.

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You can read more about this in the free Oracle Applications Cloud User Experience Innovations and Trends eBook.

Sure, for some users, a funky new digital stylus will rock their world. For others, it won’t.

And we’ll all still lose the thing.

The pen is back? It’s never been away.

Cross-posted from Ültan’s Über Üsable Apps, thanks Ultan (@ultan).

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