(Comment left on: Jacob Faire's Blog)
Susan P. Wyche, Kelly E. Caine, Benjamin K. Davison, Shwetak N. Patel,
Michael Arteaga, and Rebecca E. Grinter
Georgia Institute of Technology
Computer Science & Engineering
In this research, Wyche et al. create an example mobile phone application called Sun Dial which is designed to show how applications can be made to go beyond simply providing functionality, but also paying attention to religious aesthetic principles and beliefs and incorporating sacred imagery to make for a program that can more intimately connect a user to a religious experience.
Sun Dial itself is a mobile-phone application that provides a visual interface so that Muslim users can identify the time of day that they need to offer up their prayers. By researching Islam's aesthetics they found that simplicity and a reverence of nature is pleasing to Muslim sensibilities, so they created an interface that shows the sun moving from sunrise to sunset and settling into green circles that indicated the window of opportunity for the believers to pray. In the background they inserted a picture of a mosque along with a skyline that changes colors to indicate dawn, day, and sunset.
Users reported that the interface was simple, pleasing, and offered an easy reminder of the Muslim principles and history.
To me, this paper just reinforces the fact that you should consider your target population when your designing any product. If your target is a particular religious group, then you research what is important to that group, provide the features your application is supposed to address, and then make those features have seamless interface that is pleasing to the aesthetic of the user.
The only fault I find is that this kind of research doesn't really uncover anything really new. They really only made an application for a target population. It just doesn't seem ambitious to me.
As for what could be improved on for this kind of application would be a set of customizable features of what kind of background the user wanted or maybe provide an audio alarm to alert prayer times.
It is interesting for a designer to take a look at a religious perspective. I will admit that it makes me a little uncomfortable at the kind of demographic change that is going on in the world. But it is good business principle to adapt to that kind of change.