What's wrong with touch-centric?

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What's wrong with touch-centric?

Postby Spangwiches » Sat Sep 24, 2011 4:55 am

I've seen people criticise Unity and Gnome Shell (for desktop use, I'm talking solely about use on a desktop with kb and mouse here) for being 'touch centric' or 'designed for a tablet' or similar.

Is that necessarily bad? Is there something intrinsic to focussing on (and it's often not even a 'focus', just an accommodation) touch which makes things worse with a keyboard and mouse?

I don't believe there is, and I think it's (when unqualified) a lazy criticism.

If the design is touch-only and they do things like removing any functionality on middle/right click or replacing things I can do with a keyboard and mouse with multitouch things (e.g. removing the ability to resize windows with a mouse) then fair enough, that's worse on a desktop.

But surely the general concerns of making things usable on touch actually make things easier and more fluent to use on a desktop too? There's nothing (multitouch aside, we've got other ways to do what little that does) that can be done with touch that can't be done with a mouse. So if I'm using my mouse to make broader, sweeping gestures and click on large icons in an interface which is usually hidden away, how is that worse than operating a tiny, difficult to hit menu with tiny, closely spaced menu items?

No screen space is lost - this stuff is tucked away when it's not being used. And when it is being used, it's easier and quicker. How is that possibly bad?

It's certainly not mature yet, what we're seeing now are obviously first drafts and there's a way to go. Gnome Shell and Unity are certainly lacking in configurability but, again, in the case of Gnome I think that's just because it's still early (with Unity I suspect it's by design). But that's nothing to do with it being touch-centric.

There are differences of course, I can be more precise with a mouse than with touch so, while bigger is better if it's well designed, there's a limit to that - the cutoff point where you're no longer gaining accuracy with size comes sooner on a desktop. But that's a configuration issue.

There's some stuff in these UIs which will not be appropriate on a desktop, and that needs addressing. But there's a lot which will make desktop use easier/faster/better (or just more pleasant - I'm sometimes willing to sacrifice efficiency for a bit of aesthetic engagement) too, and that needs recognising.

It's not for everyone, of course. If you just prefer tiny, cramped little menus then there's no argument for that, that's fine. But thoughtlessly dismissing this stuff out-of-hand for being touch-centric, without looking at what that actually means for the desktop, is lazy and a bit dumb.
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Postby johnhudson » Sat Sep 24, 2011 8:34 am

There's nothing wrong with being touch-centre; it's just that some designs are unimaginative. KDE's Plasma Active takes a completely different approach to being touch-centric.
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Postby guy » Sat Sep 24, 2011 12:16 pm

Main thing I don't like about touch-centric desktops is that my monitor is not touch-sensitive.

Touch-centric on a tablet? Great!
Touch-centric by default on an established desktop OS? Not so great - but, sadly, all too common.
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