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Down Under and Backward

Many of you have had experiences traveling or moving to another country. The oppor- tunity to become immersed into another culture can be quite exciting while also a bit intimidating. Having recently moved to Australia from the United States, I’ve been encountering many cultural differences that I have been forced to quickly adapt to. Not all have been so easy to grasp. Here are just a few.

Phone Numbers

The Australian Communications and Media Authority, which maintains and administers the telephone numbering plan, established a Full National Number (FNN) that is composed of 10 numbers: 0x xxxx-xxxx. The first two digits are the area code; the next four generally make up the Call Collection Area and Exchange. The last four numbers define the line number at the exchange.

Mobile numbers also have 10 digits but follow a different structure: 04yy yxx-xxx. Originally, the y digits indicated the network carrier. But now that Australia allows for Wireless Number Portability (WLNP), like the United States, there is not a fixed relation- ship between these numbers and the mobile carrier.

So, giving my new mobile number out to people was a bit confusing. I was always following the landline format of 0x xxxx-xxxx and getting a few confused looks.

Gas Types and Pricing

So much to choose from, and so little knowledge! There’s E85, ULP (Unleaded), E10 (ULP + 10% ethanol), PULP (Premium), UPULP (Ultra Premium), Diesel, and LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). Unlike the United States, where gas is sold by the gallon, Australia sells it by the liter and it is priced in cents. A typical petrol price of ULP may be 135.9. Having a US pricing format embedded in my head, I was shocked at first to think that gasoline was $135 per liter, though my sense quickly rationalized this was a wrong deduction.

Date Format

My first experience with this confusion occurred when I was applying for both my Visa and my overseas health insurance and I had to enter my date of birth. The Visa application was clear in the format I had to enter: day/month/year. The insurance form was not. It was a paper form with blank squares for each separate character.

The empty boxes had no label under them, just: ☐ ☐ - ☐ ☐ - ☐ ☐ ☐.

In Australia, this format is culturally understood. However, for me it’s quite unclear. Do I enter my month or day first? Each of those fits within the constraints of the provided format. Yet each clearly yields an entirely different result.

Understanding Our Users

As designers, we can limit these confusions by designing better UIs that meet the needs of our users. To do this, we must consider who are users are, what type of prior knowledge they have, and the context in which the device will be used.

Users and Their Prior Knowledge

Mobile users come from a variety of cultures with a multitude of experiences, skills, and expectations. If the devices’ UI cannot meet these user requirements, their experiences will quickly turn into frustrations while their actions result in performance errors.

To prevent this, start by identifying your users early in the design process. Use methods of observation, interviews, personas, and storyboards to gain insight into their needs, motivations, and experiences. Refer to this collected data to validate and guide your design decisions throughout the design process.

Context of Use

Unlike desktop users, mobile users will use their devices anywhere and anytime. These users may be checking an email while walking down the street, snapping photos during a design GUI jam, or lying in bed playing a game.

In all of these situations, external stimuli are present which affect the amount of attention the user can use to focus on the task at hand: lighting conditions, external noise, and body movements are all stimuli that affect one’s attention. Consider the effects of how bright sunlight on a glossy screen limits our ability to distinguish details, colors, and character legibility. Similarly, when the device is shaking up and down in the hands of the user as he walks down the street, selecting an element on the screen becomes prone to error.

These external stimuli are not always controllable, but the device’s UI can at least be designed to limit the negative effects on the user experience. Using labels and indicators can redirect the user’s attention away from the external stimuli and back to the task at hand.

Labels and Indicators in the Mobile Space

Labels are either text or images that provide clear and accurate information to support an element’s function.

Indicators are graphical elements supported by text to provide cues and/or user control on the status or changes.

As you are now aware, displayed information is not always easily understood or easily detectable. The use of labels and indicator widgets can provide assistance with these issues through surface-level visual cues and functions. These visual cues and functions can help our users better understand the current context within the device. Labels and indicators can be used in the mobile space to:

Visual Guidelines for Labels and Indicators in the Mobile Space

Figure 7-1. As we get better and better hardware and networks, we ask more of them. Delays appear to be inevitable. Do what you can to label, and communicate within context, so that users have some information to occupy and guide them.

The following are some visual guidelines for using labels and indicators on mobile devices:

Patterns for Labels and Indicators

Using appropriate and consistent label and indicator widgets provides visual cues and functions to communicate the current context of the device. In this chapter, we will discuss the following patterns based on how the human mind organizes and navigates information: Ordered Data



Wait Indicator

Reload, Synch, Stop

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Labels and Indicators (last edited 2011-12-13 16:48:09 by shoobe01)