Tuesday Thoughts about Hardware & Software

Once upon a time, iPhones fit in the palm of our hands. Holding and tapping anywhere was easy. The hardware never impeded you from using the software.

Now phones are mini tablets, but the software has stayed more or less the same. As a product designer who studied ergonomics in school, I occasionally find it strange that the two don’t always evolve together.

It creates some issues when performing certain actions like:

1) Taking a photo. Have you ever tried taking a phone of the sky with one hand? Try it. It’s hard to keep the phone steady while your thumb reaches for the camera button. Whenever this happens, I generally use the volume down button to take the photo instead. It’s because my thumb wants to be near the center of the screen or to the edge of it to keep it stable. It would actually be easier if the “trigger” button were on the top left and top right of the screen for either your left or right thumb.

2) Using Touch ID. Your thumb reaches for the center of the screen more easily than the bottom of the device.

What if the next Touch ID works by touching the screen rather than the home button? It would involve a lot of changes to the hardware, but it kind of makes sense from an ergonomic standpoint.

(I mocked up the last screen)

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My thumb has a much easier time with the option on the right.

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3) Using navigation bars and menus.

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Navigation and main buttons have always been at the top and at the bottom of the screen. It’s generally a good idea since you want content to be in the middle of the screen. But it doesn’t always make sense when you can’t properly reach the extreme corners.

Given that Apple is most likely implementing Force Touch on their next iPhone/iPad, I would want to enable navigation with different types of presses. Next step in navigation will be less about taps and more about gestures. Swipe-to-go-back and horizontal scrolling are already widely used. Let’s keep pushing UI in that direction.

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Normal things I didn’t realize you needed two hands to do

…until I got into an accident three weeks ago.

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  1. Using zippers
  2. Hand-washing utensils
  3. Tying a ponytail
  4. Cutting fingernails on the healthy hand
  5. Tying shoelaces
  6. Tying trash bags
  7. Signing your signature on curly receipt paper.
  8. Using cling wrap effectively
  9. Rolling up sleeves for the healthy arm
  10. Chopping whole onions

The Solution:

When people leave the hospital with one working hand, they should hand them a weighted clamp in a bag.

Why? Because when you’re one-handed, the thing that really changes is you that no longer create strong opposing forces: you can’t pull or use one hand for the anchor while the other hand does something to an object.

A weighted clamp would allow people to do at least half the things on this list. It could hold a light object still while allowing the other hand to perform an action on that object. Boom.