Thursday, March 13, 2003

Nonergonomic! Windows of Opportunity

Nonergonomic! Windows of Opportunity
[人因工程 ]

Gestural Interfaces and Fitt's Law

I was reading some stuff on about Fitt's Law, and thinking about ways to make buttons easy to hit. Fitt's law says that the edges of the screen are easiest to hit (especially the corners), and this usually means you should put the most important things on the edges or corners of the screen. The idea is used in the Mac menubar, so when you push the mouse to the top of the screen, you don't have to slow down to hit a button. Tog claims that Mac users are 5x faster than Windows users at getting to a menu as a result. Windows doesn't use these concepts very much, or very well.

I was thinking about the Back and Forward buttons in my browser, and I decided that the left and right edges would make really nice big buttons for those things. I got this idea of "bumping" the mouse on each side as a kind of gestural interface for browsing, and made a program that does that when Internet Explorer is on top and you bump the edge. Some of my friends are now addicted. All you do is bash the mouse pointer against either side of the screen, and the topmost browser window navigates in the appropriate direction.

The Taskbar

Another example of Windows dumbness: the taskbar at the bottom of the screen is about 3 pixels from satisfying Fitt's Law. They just missed. I decided that you shouldn't be able to click below or left of the Start button, and the same for the taskbar buttons. When running the bumper app, the mouse movement is now constrained all the time to exclude these regions. Caveat: You can't use "Auto Hide" for the taskbar or things will break.

This program is invisible, which means that you should run it once, and if all goes well, nothing will visibly happen. Never fear, since in fact, immediately afterwards, your browser and taskbar will have new superpowers.

Full version:
bumper.exe [40k] [updated]

Version with no taskbar support [for people who use auto-hide]:
bumper_notask.exe [28k]

Editor's Comments:

Opportunities for making highly useful ergonomic advances are all around us. One need not search far and wide for them -- they're right under our noses. This amazingly clever Windows utility ranks among them. If you're reading this article right now, chances are you use Microsoft Windows. And like me, you may be asking yourself "Why didn't I think of that?" An even better question would be "Why didn't Microsoft think of that?" The "Bump" utility is an intriguing ergonomic enhancement to a universally used Graphic User Interface. And while it leaves something to be desired (no vertical scrolling function) it nevertheless demonstrates what it means to "think outside the box", or in this case, "think outside the window". Industrial design neophytes who seem to equate "ergonomic design" with turning everything they see into ugly plastic amoebas need to get a clue.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Gestural Interfaces and Fitt's Law
Illustration: Bumper
Author: Michael Herf
Affiliation: Stereopsis
Publication Date: Not specified
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

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