Ergonomics versus efficiency: buttons or gestures?

Based on materials from The Verge

Ergonomics versus efficiency: buttons or gestures?

A day after the release of the final beta version Android Q, Google provided the most straightforward explanation to date of why the new gesture control in Android Q is better than before. “By moving to a gesture model in system navigation, we can provide apps with a larger screen to make the experience more immersive,” write the product managers responsible for the user interface Android Allen Huang and Roen Shah in Android Developer’s Blog.

No one disputes the usefulness of such a solution, but Google ran into a problem regarding the 'Back' function in Android and the need to find the best way to keep this function in gesture control, so that for the end user this method is as natural as possible. . “This goal was prioritized for us over other, less frequent navigation activities, such as navigating to lists of running apps or recent apps,” Huang and Shah write.

“We started by doing research to understand how users hold their phones, what kind of reach is typical, what parts of the phone users use the most. Based on this, we have created many prototypes that have been tested on parameters such as desirability, speed of use, ergonomics, etc., they say. “And we put the final design through a series of tests: how quickly users learn the system, get used to the system, how they feel.”

Below is a heat map of the areas of the phone that users can comfortably interact with using gestures using the device with one hand. As you can see, this is a compelling argument to move the 'Back' function away from the edges of the smartphone, as Google did on Android Q:

Ergonomics versus efficiency: buttons or gestures?

Left thumb reach and right thumb reach

Google admits that a gesture system similar to iPhone sacrifices quick access to overview / recent apps. Swiping and holding is slower than pressing a button. But the company says that users Android interact with multitasking mode half as often as they go to the home screen.

And the most exciting news: users prefer the ergonomics of the traditional navigation solution in Android with three buttons, which existed for years before Google felt the urge to change (at least in Pixel smartphones) in last year Android P. The ergonomics rating for buttons is 5.78 versus 5.39 for gestures in Android Q.

Ergonomics versus efficiency: buttons or gestures?

Comparison of the ergonomics of the smartphone as a whole (blue columns) and its use with one hand (yellow columns) with different control organization (more – better)

On the other hand, users find gestures to be the best approach for one-handed use. Google data suggests that Android Q style navigation helps people get things done faster than any other method, even if one of them takes time to master.

Regardless of app lists, gestures represent a significant change for people and take an average of 1 to 3 days to get used to, especially for those tied to the familiar pattern of swiping left-right carousel and tapping back.

In qualitative studies, it has been found that after an initial period of 1 to 3 days, users become accustomed and can consistently distinguish between the two gestures. Most users do not want to go back to the three-button navigation, although it is kept as an option.

Ergonomics versus efficiency: buttons or gestures?

Comparative time required to perform a Back / Home operation in different control systems (less is better)

Google found that people were less likely to use the Back feature in the early days of getting used to Android Q, getting to know it. 'After that, the average number of clicks back [per day] was eventually equal to the same action in the three-button navigation in Android P'.

As a result, Google made the decision to push gesture navigation further. And in order to avoid fragmentation so that devices from different manufacturers do not behave differently, the company has confirmed that the largest device manufacturers on Android, including Samsung, LG, OnePlus, Motorola, Xiaomi, HMD Global and Oppo, have agreed to use Google's new navigation system by default on devices that go out to Android Q.

However, Google also made it clear that users will be able to keep the classic navigation bar Android with three buttons and on Android Q of their choice. And this choice is not only given in the beta version, it will be preserved in the full release. After getting Pixel 3 users to use gestures, the company will expand the choice of navigation system to their liking.

In their post, Google employees admit that gesture navigation has become prevalent over the past few years. But they do not mention iPhone X, rather they nod at the Palm Pre as the founder of the whole trend.

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