The Importance of Right-Left-Up-Down Standards in Product Design
Yesterday I created a meeting on my Android smartphone (Galaxy Nexus running ICS), filled in all the details, invited a couple of people, and then accidentally cancelled it. I had one of those “WTF just happend??” moments.
So I came back to the screen, and I noticed that the “Done” button was on the right and the “Cancel” button was on the left. I scratched my head, like, literally scratched my head, and tried to figure out why I automatically pressed “Cancel” instead of “Done”. And then I realized. When adding or editing contacts on Android, the “Done” button is on the left, and I do that way more often than creating meetings (which I usually do on my laptop). Below is a screenshot.
As you can see, when adding/editing a contact, the “Done” button is on the left, but when adding/editing a meeting, the “Done” button is on the right. This just begs to trick users into automatically choosing the wrong option.
This realization gave me a strange feeling of deja-vu. I spent a minute trying to figure out why. And then it hit me- on Android, I always had a feeling that the “Copy” button jumps from place to place and has no standard. Sometimes it’s at the bottom, sometimes at the top, and every time I need to copy something I find myself searching for the button and finding it somewhere else.
I thought it doesn’t make sense that the button really is someplace else every time, so I started playing with copying in various scenarios to understand the situation. After a few minutes I got it. When you’re marking uneditable text (e.g. when you’re viewing an email from ifttt), then the copy button appears on the bottom, as the leftmost icon. But when you’re editing text, the copy button appears on the top, as the second icon from the right. Wait WHAT??
On the one hand, it’s clear that the toolbox for editing text is different from the toolbox for marking uneditable text (e.g. you can’t paste). But on the other hand, deciding the toolbox should be absolutely totally completely different is way too extreme. And what says “absolutely totally completely different” more than putting one at the bottom and the other at the top.
So next time you design an OS, please figure out what your common user functions are (e.g. saving stuff and copying text), and make sure the’y standardized across the user experience. And when I say “standardized” I mean “always in the same place”. Thank you.
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