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Making Desktop Design Finger-Friendly

People want everything at their fingertip and that is what is influencing the electronic gadget market across the world. You will see complete new range devices with touch access flooding the consumer market. Moreover, the release of Windows 8 has changed the entire perception of the consumers regarding touchscreen laptops, keyboard and tablets. What we call as hybrid amalgamation of keyboards and touchscreen have actually created a completely new environment - applying science for creating a particular design.

While designing a touchscreen desktop, there are many factors that need consideration. The most important thing is user interface convention. No matter whether it is a small touchscreen, you need to incorporate large touch targets. You never know how clumsy a finger can be. Moreover, controls and navigations should be placed in areas which are more convenient to operate and where the hands rest naturally. The other most important considerations are the elements of industrial design, which include physical comfort.

You need to think with regards to touchscreen functionality while designing touch desktops. For a matter of fact, the traditional top navigation panels are kind of aggressive for hybrid gizmos. The traditional layout of desktop conventions needs to be altered so that they easily make room for the fingers and thumb to move around the screen. The solution is not to have separate interfaces for non-touch and touchscreen gadgets. In fact the designers of today do not have enough information about the same.

Because the problem still persists, it is necessary that you start considering that every desktop UI needs to designed for a touch. Consider the following:

Gorilla Arms – Too Much Effort

The new touchscreen technology requires users to move their hands to and fro on the screen and back to the keyboard. Although many people criticized the concept of pointing at the screen, today, this has gained immense popularity. Now working on touchscreens can cause you to have gorilla arms, because you will work with your arms constantly in the air.

Although the time-tested pointers have been availabile, people still prefer using a touchscreen because, they say it feels more intimate and direct to use a touchscreen. Moreover, there is something more irresistible about touchscreens.

So, what needs to be done about the gorilla arms? A research showed that people usually don’t raise their arms while using these hybrid gizmos. Instead, they rest their arms at the bottom of the keyboard to have a loose grip.

Thumb Rules

There are certain thumb rules you need to look into while designing for touch. Well, touch is synonymous to fingers, rather more specific, to thumbs. When a user holds a touchscreen in his hand, from smartphones to tablets, his thumb calls the shot.

• For Phones – A Thumb is a Hand

You might have noticed that while the other fingers do the job of holding the phone, it is the thumb that calls the shot. From typing to selecting and sending, it is the thumb that does all the functions. Well, although the best interface for phones is one hand grip, it limits the working because one hand literally means one thumb for a phone. And the main problem with thumbs is that they fail in dexterity and reach.

With the amalgamation of freedom and limitations means that you need a designed that is more specific. Except for the oversized phones and tabs, the thumb can cover most of the area on the screen. While holding a phone on the right hand give thumb the space to move freely on the left bottom arc - one big reason why the developers use primary control on this area.

• Tablets: Resting On the Edges

Tablets are held in many different ways making them a bit tricky. You can tilt a tablet; grab it, and do much more depending on the situations. However, the thumb rule will still apply to tablets. The only difference here would be that the area of access will change. Looking into the different permutations and combinations of the uses of tablets or rather the way they are held, things need to be different.

You will tend to surf through the entire page and entire screen. Because tablets have large screens, the eyes and thumbs tend to focus on the top half of the screen. Depending upon this, you need to spread your navigation panel and other primary controls across the bottom of the screen. However, sometimes these aren’t even visible. The new design suggests that you navigation panel and other controls must use the sides of the tablet so that it becomes easy for the thumb to shoot them.

Don’t design your desktop in a way that people have to lift their entire arms from top to bottom or reverse. Keep the design simple where only the use of thumb and index finger is sufficient to handle the entire screen.

• Hybrids: Thumb Calls the Shot

Here again, the rule of thumb calls the shots. It is often noticed that hybrid gizmos users usually grip the bottom corner, while resting their arms on the corners of the keyboard. Therefore it is necessary that you place the navigation panel at the bottom where it is easy to reach. This approach disturbs your viewing experience, because the user moves his finger all over the screen. However, this technique requires center as its easy touch zone. But this is exactly reverse to thumb zone that has been mentioned in the Thumb rules.

No matter what you choose are your prime touch zone, the layout must be winning, and the thumb is the primary utility pointer. Looking at the windows 8, it is quite neatly managed. Grouping prime navigation and gestures for hybrid screens at the bottom corners is essential.

Touch: A Problem in Responsive Design

If we look back into the history of designing practices, we will often find that more focus is laid on visual aspects. Designers usually fail to consider physicality of the design and environment when designing a website which can work across different platforms. This is one main reason why responsive web designing has kept most people still surprised because it’s hard for them to figure out how exactly can their desktop design be used evenly though small screens.

The rise in changing consumption patterns has given rise for the need to develop responsive website which can be used evenly across different platforms without the need for building different websites. Now, when we talk about hybrid, we actually mean that touch no-longer prevails only in smartphones and tablets. It has taken up the desktop and laptop market as well. There are quite a lot of desktop websites which are not optimized for touch and thus challenge the fingers for there are comparatively smaller touch targets. When you are talking about touch, you need large ouch targets like links and menu buttons which be easily triggered. The other thing is that navigations are not placed according to the touch zones.

This makes it disturbing for the user and keeps it cursor friendly, not user-friendly. Proxy has usually been used by the responsive web designers to assume support for touch. We ideally used to follow a pattern that, “If it’s a small screen, its touch. If it’s a big screen, it’s mouse-driven.” Sadly, there are no media queries for targeting touch devices; however, it may soon change.

Now, if talk about the hybrid and touch-only tablet, things should be differently designed for both because both have different ergonomics. This means, the identification of touch as well as the combination of other outputs is important. It will be better to have http headers as well so that the announcements are made hassle-free:

Till the time we actually get such tags, there is one sensible thing to do.

Assume every screen your website serves is a touchscreen

If you think of developing a touch screen, you must understand that it is crucial to have the interface which is absolutely user-friendly, in fact finger-friendly. You might even need a completely new desktop language which can help in replacing the cursor friendly desktop to a finger-friendly one.

If we talk about an ideal device which has served the exact purpose of everything mentioned above, Windows 8 is one that has handles things well. It was Windows first effort to try addressing such issues and has succeeded in the same.

However, the race isn’t over yet. Microsoft designers have been trying to collaborate different styles to make the user experience enhanced and even better.

New Navigation Standards for the Desktop

Well, you will need to understand the way of building this new touch-device, although it might take some time.

• Put the controls and navigation panels to the left and right corners, so that it falls in the thumb zone for easy access.

• Primary controls need to be aligned on the left while the right side should be for poking and navigation.

• Consider drifting as an enhancement, not a necessity.

• Be sure enough to make large touch targets for better UE and accommodating clumsy fingers.

In short, this means that you need a desktop layout which is finger friendly and allows easy tapping with both the thumb as well as the index finger.

Author Bio:

Daniel is a tech writer associated with VITEB – a leading web design company in India that creates high-end web and mobile solutions. He has written many articles on web design, website development and digital marketing related topics. You can follow him on Facebook @VITEB.

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