In Rachel Hinman’s ongoing thought series, she points out how we disengage with the world:
Lately I have been thinking of a sad sight I see often – a person, walking around utterly disengaged with the world around them, head buried in a mobile phone. It??s evidence of an incredibly unfortunate relationship that we humans have established with technology objects. They demand we disengage from the world and focus on the object – give deference to it, instead of the world.
The iPod Shuffle is far less likely to engage its wearer so much that she crosses the street without looking. The Touch and iPhone require more interaction. Perhaps if I were listening to music and I could just pull the earpieces out without missing much, I’d feel differently. As we frequently discuss, a good design is optimized for the context in which it will be used.
This is a problem that we as the mobile industry tend to exacerbate. Cool highly interactive experiences, like much of the iPhone’s UI and many touch interactions, require the user to stop and exclude the world. Fine for games, not so good for music players. Despite my iPod Touch, I still use my iPod Shuffle for being out in the world. I’ll use the Touch only when I have the freedom of some guaranteed uninterrupted time. I like to be able to interact with the world with only one second’s delay.
The takeaway: decide whether you need to design for users immersed or emersed in your product, or perhaps facilitate both behaviors. Then do it. But don’t assume.