Modalities and Modes
Two words are used in UI design to describe the different ways in which a user can utilize a product. Modality refers to several alternate interfaces to the same product, while mode describes different states of the same interface.
- Input – computer keyboard allows the user to enter typed text, digitizing tablet allows the user to create free-form drawing
- Output – computer monitor allows the system to display text and graphics (vision modality), loudspeaker allows the system to produce sound (auditory modality)
The user interface may employ several redundant input modalities and output modalities, allowing the user to choose which ones to use for interaction.
A mode is a distinct method of operation within a computer program, in which the same input can produce different perceived results depending of the state of the computer program. For example, caps lock sets an input mode in which typed letters are uppercase by default; the same typing produces lowercase letters when not in caps lock mode. Heavy use of modes often reduces the usability of a user interface, as the user must expend effort to remember current mode states, and switch between mode states as necessary.
Famous quotes containing the word modes:
“Sight and all the other senses are only modes of touch.”
—Samuel Butler (18351902)