A UI that I would consider a favorite is the trackpad on my MacBook, most specifically the gestures functionality of it. I love the smooth tactile experience of using the trackpad. It’s literally smooth, and also smooth in its integration with my use of my computer. Most importantly, the trackpad makes actions (objects) that I need to perform on my computer over and over again faster and easier. Before these improvements to the trackpad it was easier to do certain things with a desktop computer, which would have a mouse to use. But with the improvements to the trackpad’s capabilities, I don’t miss the mouse whatsoever when I use my laptop.
One example of a “gesture” that I use very often with my trackpad’s Multi-touch abilities is “Mission Control.” In the past, arranging windows in a way that made them easy to switch between was a chore. In today’s computer use, the subject often multi-tasks, having several windows open at a time, each related to different trains of thought, different work activities, even different times of day or different moods. With gestures, I now am able to swipe four fingers upwards, and suddenly all of my windows are displayed side by side, ready for me to seamlessly switch between them.
That is just one example of the several time-saving possibilities of the trackpad.
It is worth noting that there is an element of skills needed on my part to take full advantage of the trackpad. There was a learning process to my trackpad use; I didn’t instantly know to use the gestures when I pulled my MacBook out of the box. That said, after a small amount of use, gestures became second nature, and as a user I was able to use them to navigate without added thought or effort. They became a part of my subconscious. This speaks to Activity Theory’s notion of progress, and “the gradual incorporation of a wider range of human skills and abilities.” Perhaps ten years ago, the “Mission Control” gestures would have been too abstract or outlandish to be learned by users easily, and they would have missed out on its potential for time savings.
Much like the driver learning to change lanes, when I was new to the trackpad’s gestures, I needed to be conscious of my fingers’ actions in the moment (total concentration). But as I became more skilled, “this action [became] more and more automatic,” and I was able to switch windows without stopping the task at hand to think about the fact that I was switching windows.