I stumbled across Engage Interactive’s post about iPhone orientation specific content last night. What they have managed to do is to change what is displayed on screen based on the orientation of the iPhone. If you hold it upright you’ll get their Blog; rotate horizontally to the left and you get their About page and rotate to the right to get a mini portfolio.
I’m a Software Engineer by training and that part of me is screaming out how cool this is. Technically, it’s a really impressive feat and it looks fantastic. We need this kind of innovation to push the field forward. However, the usability side of my brain thinks that in this case it’s not such a good idea.
It’s just not the expected behaviour – it violates the ‘Rule of Least Surprise’ which simply says to “Do the least surprising thing”. I think Eric S. Raymond sums this up best: “Novelty is a barrier to entry; it puts a learning burden on the user, so minimize it”. In fairness to Engage Interactive – when you visit their site on an iPhone you get a mini tutorial. But, I don’t really want to be reading tutorials on how to use a web site! On a slow connection this would just be annoying!
However, I do think they are on to something – as a technology demo it opens up some pretty exciting possibilities for others to build on. Personally, I think using the orientation sensing to display an entirely different page is just too confusing. But, I can see it being good for augmenting the existing page – maybe using the extra width to display more detailed information, or add extra views such as graphs etc.
But, well done to Engage Interactive for coming up with the first example of this that I’ve seen – keep up the good work.