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LONDON – We’re here at Nokia’s design event in London, The Inside Story, and user interface designers Juliana Ferreira and Lee Cooper have just given us an interesting look at what goes into designing Nokia homescreens, and highlight just how significant the homescreen is for most of us. Click through to find out what happens behind the scenes at Nokia for the designers exploring new ways to improve the homescreen interface.

Early on Juliana hit us with a monster statistic – of the total time you spend using your mobile phone, on average 85 per cent of that time is spent on your homescreen. Does that surprise you? I must say I never imagined it would be that much. Regardless, the fact remains that we spend a huge amount of time engaged with our homescreens. So the upcoming N97 is the first device to fully realize the research that has taken place over the past two years by Juliana, Lee and the other UI design specialists at Nokia, when it comes to creating a new breed of homescreen experience – an experience that reflects the now embedded trend of personalization and our desire to communicate, share media and control any extension of ourselves on our terms. Not just digitally either, with the likes of Nike iD (which lets you custom create your own trainers to your taste) quoted as an example. As Juliana explains:

“The homescreen appropriate way to personalize plethora of content that is meaningful to you. It allows people to make their products their own. We are building tools to enable people to make the products for themselves”

In terms of how the design team has approached investigating and developing Nokia’s new homescreens, including that of the N97, Juliana explains it’s a three-step process.

Firstly, the team keenly observed and gathered data on how people think about personalization in a number of counties including the UK, USA, China, Philippines, Brazil and India. These initial findings gave the design team insight into the global similarities and differences between people when it comes to personalization, culturally and beyond, spread around the globe. For instance, one granular finding was that a worker interviewed in the UK and a rural worker in Nigeria shared the same interest of wanting to get the football scores for the Premiere League delivered to them – different lives and cultures, but some fundamental shared needs. The job of the design team is to address these sorts of micro needs in a flexible and effortless way, with the overarching solution being widgets and wallpapers, and enabling people to fully customize them.

So the second step in the process of designing the new homescreen was the exploration of concepts and prototypes. The team asked hundreds of people to create their ideal homescreen with paper prototypes, and found that no two homescreens were the same and that people want complete freedom to place stuff wherever they wanted. Personalization in practice saw people feedback with some interesting requirements, such as one guy who simply said “I really don’t want to hide by daughter’s face with email”. Fair point.

Plus, people called for widgets that would morph in size to make them more contextually relevant and significant when appropriate (something that isn’t in the current homescreen, but is being looked at). For example one person in the study was a Manchester United fan who said, “for that 90 minutes the football is on, I want to see the Man. Utd. widget as clearly as I can. It should be big while the game is on and smaller when it’s not”

Corralling all this information and feedback led to the final stage of validation and testing of the homescreen to make it seamless and effortless. Which is the stage we find ourselves at with the N97.

As for what’s next? The design team is looking at ways to enable this tool for more Nokia devices. Also the ambition is to enable multiple homescreens on single device.

What do you think to what you’ve seen of the N97 homescreen? Is personalisation an essential element for your mobile life? Share your thoughts below.