Memories of Fake Buttons Past & Present

I remember using an app called PacerForum on my IIfx back in the mid 90s. You wouldn’t mistake it for something complicated, it was just a glorified discussion forum. But the memory I kept of that app was the simple presentation of discussion topics:


Just a short title, a little graphic if you wanted and some color (not demonstrated here.) This is about actual size which means the icon size strikes a good balance between too much/too little. This icon/button combo always worked for me. There’s something physical about the size and the presentation. You want to touch them.

If you bank with Wells Fargo you hopefully have seen the new(ish) ATM design using the modern-day equivalent of PacerForum buttons:


It’s finger-friendly, the controls are big, almost physical. Minimal amounts of info on the screen means less clutter and more focus. There’s some nice background on the project from one of the designers available too.

Frog’s Celltop project takes the big button concept and shrinks it for the mobile phone.


However this video overview probably does a better job of communicating how it works:

There’s always the danger of taking a perfectly good UI concept and shoehorning it awkwardly into a new environment. The PacerForum and Wells Fargo ATM design succeeded because of what they left out. Celltop took the button and made it a data-rich widget–dense with info and light on context. You no longer think about “touching” these things.

But touch is everywhere now. The iPhone still defines the experience with HTC (Android handsets), Blackberry and maybe even Palm coming up fast. Finger-friendly is only getting more important.

The people over have come up with a generic input device for controlling music and video apps, custom things, etc. etc. And it is totally multi-touch. You design the interface and you design how that interface controls your app. Meet the Lemur:


The videos are quite interesting, as is paging thru the manual (PDF).

Here’s an actual live use of a Lemur:

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