Posted by: kurtsh | September 19, 2013

COMMENTARY: Why Touch on a Laptop is so Strangely Useful


Q: What’s the point of having touch on a laptop display? 

If you’ve ever had a laptop with a touch screen, you’ve probably had the experience of working on a non-touch laptop and intuitively reaching out to the screen to “scroll” down a page, then laughing at yourself when it doesn’t work & resolving to have to find the mouse to accomplish the same task.

But that’s exactly it:  Why’d you reach out to touch the screen?  Why didn’t you instinctively reach for the mouse or press the down arrow on your keyboard instead?

It’s simple:  Because it’s faster, easier, and more natural to touch a screen when your hands aren’t already on the mouse/keyboard.  The fact is that we don’t always have our hands on the keyboard or the mouse, and during the times when we don’t, by reaching out to the screen and scrolling, we eliminate the process of changing our mind’s context, if ever so slightly, to first suddenly having to find the mouse or the down arrow on the keyboard and then refocusing on the screen to scroll/zoom/slide to where we want.

The simple elimination of this “locate-the-mouse” step is not just gratifying in it’s embrace of the natural user experience – it’s actually more productive, if for just that moment, and our mind’s subconsciously recognize this & appreciate the ease by which we were able to accomplish the scrolling, sliding, zooming, or whatever it is we needed to do on the display.

Personally, I believe this little bit of productivity allows people to work for longer periods of uninterrupted time.

I have a Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch (touchscreen laptop) and the freedom to touch the screen and scroll/zoom/slide, as I mentioned, is actually a productivity enhancer.  You know it’s more productive when you use it… you just can’t put your finger on why.

It’s all about eliminating context changes while working.  Refocusing on the mouse.  Refocusing on the display.  Refocusing on the keyboard.  Instead, when you use your finger, you cut short that context change because your brain doesn’t need it.  It’s like a shortcut.

And the proof is in the pudding:  The number of people I’ve talked to that have actually made the transition to a touch laptop and laughed about being one of the “converted” are more than I can count.

This increased productivity during the workday is tangible and a sort of “secret sauce” of Windows 8-based laptops.  This is what a lot of people who cavalierly dismiss touch laptops don’t understand.


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