Maybe it's just a coincidence, but one of our most conservative customers startled us two weeks ago asking us to revamp an old application "so that it looks good on one of those tablet thingies".
After straightening out that they weren't thinking of the iPad specifically, and that just any tablet would do, I started to work on that thinking we were in for a quick buck: the application is as simple as it gets, with a toolbar, a treeview, a listview,
a preview pane. Strikingly similar to Windows Explorer, Outlook Express or about a million other applications.
As soon as I started playing with the first prototype, I realized we were in trouble... the layout works great with a mouse, but is simply hopeless on a tablet if you are right-handed (like some 80-90% of the population):
- as you move your finger across the treeview, the palm covers the listview
- as you move your finger across the items in the listview, the palm covers the preview pane
- as you try different settings on the toolbar (now a ribbon), you can't always see the real-time preview too well as the hand is right over the best part of the window.
A quick fix was to reverse pretty much everything, with the ribbon at the bottom, the treeview on the right, the preview pane at the top. Now it doesn't require to keep hands and necks crooked at odd angles but... boys, it sucks. The layout is so unfamiliar
that it takes a while to get used to, not to mention that it doesn't look like anything else in the OS.
I'm really stumped here... I don't know whether I can rely on the novelty of a few gestures to keep the users happy or I should take the sensible road and break every UX guidelines I know of. Suggestions?