Cell Phone Interface Design Principles

Are there any cell phone interface design principles? (Google’s answer is inconclusive.) I would think a multi-billion dollar industry would have developed some best practices at this point, but it seems like each new phone is designed by monkeys jumping on typewriters. Maybe eventually they’ll get it right, but I’d rather not wait until infinity.

A persistent flaw that has always puzzled me across nearly all models is the “shut down sound” feature. If you are shutting off your cell phone, do you really need a distinctive musical reminder? Did the designers of this feature ever consider that, in many instances, the user is shutting off the cell phone because they are in a silent theatre or a business meeting? Who are these designers, anyway? Of course you can always turn the volume down first (or probably better — just silence the phone and keep it on), but that is not going to be the first inclination for most users.

I was reminded of this flaw last night at a Counterpoint Concert that was being recorded for VPR radio broadcast. After the chorus director reminded people to turn off their cell phones for the recording, a symphony of shut down sounds followed shortly thereafter.

Cell phone gripes aside, the concert was great — particularly the performance of They Called Her Moses.

On a related note, see this petition regarding cell phone user interfaces and software. Joel on Software also has some nice observations on this topic.