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Touchpanel Design

Mar 14, 2011 3:12 PM, By Patrick Barron

Understanding GUI considerations by vertical market.

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Custom markets: Restaurants, bars, Entertainment venues, and hospitals

Many systems don’t fit a typical mold because the functions they are called upon to perform are extremely unique. Restaurants, clubs, bars, entertainment venues, and hospital systems are often highly customized, and special considerations should be taken when designing a touchpanel because of the environments in which they will be used. A touchpanel in a restaurant, bar, or club might be used in low visibility areas by staff that are primarily occupied by other tasks, such as serving food or drinks. Have you ever been at a bar and asked the bartender to change the channel to watch your favorite team? You don’t want to wait while they browse through the user’s guide for the touchpanel to figure out which button on a page buried five layers deep on the panel they should use to change the channel.

A system in this type of venue should have menus that are extremely simple to navigate and buttons that are larger than normal with extremely high contrast colors and large fonts. The use of icons is highly desired because icons can be scanned and identified quickly instead of reading entire words. The same is true for a system used in a hospital either by a nurse that has to monitor patients or by a doctor in an operating room. The system must allow the nurse or doctor to focus their attention on the patient and not divert their attention to use the touchpanel. How would you like to be the patient on the operating table when the doctor looks away to figure out how to change the view on the endoscopic camera? These types of systems need to involve a high degree of input from the end-user. The design should be highly customized to optimize operation of the specific tasks needed.

Touchpanels in restaurants and clubs can benefit from having representations of the floor plan imbedded as part of the design. When trying to adjust volume, lighting, or TV in a particular area, it is much easier to see what the area looks like and select the action desired instead of trying to remember an arbitrary numbering scheme that might identify a TV location or audio zone. These floor plans can be obtained from system drawings provided by the architect or integrator. If these are not available, simple floor plans can be drawn on the panel to help identify key locations in the facility.


The same concept can also apply in residential systems to identify locations of TVs, lighting, and audio zones. Residential touchpanel designs are different in a fundamental way from corporate because there is not the same branding and corporate identity. It is much more accepted and appropriate to use templates in a residential system because the types of functions available will be similar from one residence to another. Once the basic system functions have been defined, the style of the touchpanel should be determined on the personal tastes and preferences of the homeowner. Style and colors can complement the users interests or décor of the room where the panel is located.

The complexity of a residential touchpanel is determined by the technical prowess of the end-user. The user might be a hardcore techie or an elderly couple in their 70s that doesn’t know what a Blu-Ray is, much less how to use their touchpanel to watch it in the living room. The programmer for a residential system should spend a great deal of time communicating with the end-user. The touchpanel should reflect the aptitude of the person using the system and adapt if multiple people with different skill levels use the system. One approach is to design multiple touchpanels where each panel is custom to each different user. Another approach is to design several levels of operation into a single panel in such a way that the “skin” and available functions change based on the user. If children use the touchpanel, a simple kid-friendly interface with icons and pictures can be used to ease the operation of the system. Since a residential touchpanel is highly personal, the importance of knowing the user and their desires cannot be underestimated.

The Vertical Market Checklist


  • Use their website as a guide for graphics, colors and style
  • Keep basic operation simple for a variety of users
  • For advanced operations, customize for primary user even if it might not be simple for others
  • Create several modes with a single panel or use multiple panels to accommodate multiple users
  • Limit use of templates and be sure not to hide corporate identity


  • Ease of operation by multiple users especially important
  • InfoComm’s Dashboard For Controls is a useful resource here and in other venues
  • Customization possible even in similar systems with a standard design

Restaurant, bar, club, hospitals

  • Simple layout with quick to find buttons and simple to navigate menus
  • Larger buttons, higher contrast, larger fonts
  • Use icons to quickly find desired functions in fast-paced environment
  • Incorporate floor plans help to identify locations


  • Get to know the homeowners so the touchpanel can incorporate their personality and style
  • Floor plans in panel can simplify operation by making areas easy to locate
  • Templates are more common
  • Adapt complexity of panel based on technical skill level
Patrick Barron, CTS specializes in control system programming and audio and system design; he holds the following certifications: AMX VIP, Crestron CAIP, Infocomm CTS, Biamp, Clear One, BSS London Soundweb, HiQNet Architect.

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