Crestron App – Why Portrait Orientation Should Be Avoided Altogether


The Crestron App and other mobile applications for automation systems have been a serious game-changer for the entire systems integration industry.  They allow integrators to offer high-quality, wireless touchscreen control of their systems at a much lower cost than traditional, proprietary touch panels.  For this reason alone, they are hugely popular, and even programmers and firms that have tried to avoid adding them into their product mix, have been forced to do so out of popular demand.  However, the Crestron App does present integrators with a number of challenges that Crestron’s standard touch panels don’t.  One of these, is the ability of mobile devices to be rotated and viewed in both portrait and landscape orientation.  This means that programmers have to essentially create two versions of their touch panel project.  Fortunately, you can avoid this headache while also making things easier for your customers, by simply eliminating the option of portrait orientation from the get-go.  I’ll explain the advantages of programming for landscape only, and suggest some ways integrators can get the most out of landscape orientation.

Efficiency of Operation

Perhaps the biggest advantage of landscape orientation over portrait is it’s efficiency.  Whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet, most mobile devices require two hands for any type of extensive operation, and when used in portrait mode, one hand is likely dedicated to holding the device while the other one does all the work.  In landscape mode however, the device can be held like a game controller, freeing up both thumbs for operation.  This is much more efficient, for the same reason most people turn their phones to landscape when texting and typing.  Operation can essentially happen twice as fast.  Additionally, having your hands “anchored” in one position on the sides of the device, allows for more accurate operation without having to look down at the screen as frequently.  Using a cursor control or up/down buttons while viewing a heads-up display becomes much easier.

Consistency With Other Large Touch Panels

Any standard Crestron panels that users may have in their home, are already going to feature a landscape orientation.  By sticking to landscape for the Crestron App, especially on tablets, you will be providing users with an experience they’re already familiar with, and won’t be introducing an additional screen layout to the mix that the user will have to get accustomed to.

Better Presentation of Lists

On tablets, and especially on small devices like iPhones, you can display longer lines of text in landscape than you can in portrait.  This is advantagous when there is a vertical scrolling list of items on the screen.  While some may argue that portrait allows more list items to be displayed on the screen at once, being able to fit entire song titles, room names, etc., horizontally without truncating them, seems far more beneficial.  Landscape orientation presents horizontal button and icon lists in a more desirable manner as well.  The items in horizontal lists are usually square, which means there is no trade off between portrait and landscape like there is with vertical lists.  Quite simply, the more items that can fit on the screen at once, the more efficient operation of the touch panel will be.

Cut Down On Programming Time

Using landscape orientation only on the Crestron App will save time for the system programmer, as he or she will be able to use an existing touch panel project for the Crestron App as well.  Even if there is not another type of Crestron panel in the project, any templates or projects from other jobs that they might work from are likely to be landscape.

How To Get the Most Out of Landscape

There are several things you can do while designing your Crestron App screens to get the most out of a landscape orientation.

Probably most important is to make sure your buttons are large enough to be easily operated by a user’s thumbs. Preferably, buttons should be at least 1/3 inch in height or larger. You can convert this measurement into pixels if you know the ppi (pixels per inch) of the panel. For the iPad it’s about 56px (104px if your designing for native Retina resolution), and for the iPhone approximately 128px.

Place elements that get used frequently, like cursor controls and channel up/down buttons, close to the edges of the screen. This will make the most commonly used controls the easiest to reach, and it also makes it easier for users to operate them without looking.

Put lesser used elements on a second page, and evaluate whether or not they need to be included at all. This reduces clutter on the main screen, making it less complex and hence, easier to operate. Commands like “Setup” on a DVR or “Zoom” and “Angle” on a DVD player are seldom used, and shouldn’t necessarily be included simply because they exist.

I have a few more thoughts that really don’t belong anywhere else, so I’ll close with them.

From the very first pictures that surfaced of the original iPad, tablets have been presented primarily as portrait orientation devices.  Why is this?  Because the manufacturers logo is printed that way?  I scoured the web and couldn’t find a clear answer, so I’m left with my own personal hypotheses.  A) The word “tablet” suggests the device should be shaped like a writing tablet.  B) Smartphones already featured this orientation as their “default” because they automatically lend themselves to being held that way when being used as a phone.  C) For e-reader applications — because the pages of a book are oriented that way.  So in conclusion — and admittedly in my opinion — other than reading, writing and talking on the phone, there’s no reason why smartphones and tablets should be considered portrait devices by default, anymore than landscape.

Aaron Craig

Aaron Craig is a graphic designer & entrepreneur. He is the founder of NTDesigns, a UI design firm that specializes in touchscreen based interfaces, especially in the home automation industry. He is the primary author for the NTDesigns Blog, and writes periodically for other blogs and publications in the UI design and automation realms when he can. Aaron lives in Milwaukee with his family and two dogs, Napoleon and Kip.

  • Aaron-

    I really enjoyed reading this article and recently cut over to landscape only designs for all my control tablet projects. I did so for many of the reasons you detailed in your article and am thrilled you took the time to discuss the finer points. This is a great resource for graphic designers and programmers alike who can significantly cut down their time spent on dual orientation development.

    Total Control Remotes LLC

    Vincent J. Bova

    February 10, 2015

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