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Understanding Fitts's Law

From: User Experience Fundamentals for Web Design

Video: Understanding Fitts's Law

In this section we are going go to talk about how the design of something makes it easier or harder to click on. I am going to start by giving you an example from web-based email clients. What's the big difference between how these two email clients implement the button for writing a new email. In case you missed them, here are the buttons. Which system makes it easier for users to write a new message? Based on just the button the size alone, we can probably say it's the one on the left. How can we be so sure? Well, it's all about Fitt's Law. Fitt's Law states that it's faster to hit lager targets closer to you, than it is to hit smaller targets further away from you.

Understanding Fitts's Law

In this section we are going go to talk about how the design of something makes it easier or harder to click on. I am going to start by giving you an example from web-based email clients. What's the big difference between how these two email clients implement the button for writing a new email. In case you missed them, here are the buttons. Which system makes it easier for users to write a new message? Based on just the button the size alone, we can probably say it's the one on the left. How can we be so sure? Well, it's all about Fitt's Law. Fitt's Law states that it's faster to hit lager targets closer to you, than it is to hit smaller targets further away from you.

Now you are thinking that it should be easy enough to go off and find another equally apparent statement and make a law about it that you can attach your name to. The thing is, Mr. Fitts didn't just make the law. He backed it up with science, making an equation that explained how much easier it would be depending upon all the variables. We don't care so much about the equation; we do care about the implications of the law. And you can see those implications all around you. The brake pedal in cars is bigger than the accelerator pedal. It's also closer to you and that make it faster and easier to hit in an emergency. The button for switching on heavy machinery is small and recessed; the button for stopping it is large and prominent.

You don't want people to starting machines by accident, but you do want them to be very easy to stop if there is a problem. In the computer world, you see the results of Fitt's Law too. Here is a dialog window, notice how the preferred options are big targets. The less preferred is smaller and it is also designed as the link rather than as a button. So here is a quiz for you. You can even pause the video to think about the answer for bit if you want. What's the easiest location on the screen to use as a target? Pause now and give it some thought. Okay, here is the answer. The position under your mouse is easiest.

That's why we use it for context menus. If you said the corners of the screen, you were close. Think about what happens to the mouse at the edges of the screen? It doesn't wrap around, it just stops, so you have the equivalent of an infinitely sized target. It doesn't matter if you overshoot, because there is nowhere to overshoot to. The corners stop horizontal and vertical movement, so you don't have to be very accurate at all. You just lurch in the general direction and still hit the target. Apple actually makes use of mousing in the corners to makes things happen in the Operating System. How should you use Fitt's Law? Think about the size of the screen elements you create.

Are they a suitable size for how they'll be used? Radio buttons are tiny. So you have to make the radio button text label into a target as well. Similarly, hyperlinks that are just one word long will be harder to click on than if you link a whole phrase. Think about the location of the screen elements you create. Are the ones that people use most are likely to be on the path of the user's cursor takes. People tend to move through screens from top left to bottom right. So it makes sense to put important elements on that axis. That's one reason for putting commit buttons on the bottom right of dialog boxes.

If you are developing for touch interfaces, have left enough space between the targets, so that it is simple enough to stab at one with a finger and be sure to hit the right one. So that's Fitt's Law. It's faster to hit lager target closer to you, than smaller targets further from you.

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This video is part of

Image for User Experience Fundamentals for Web Design
User Experience Fundamentals for Web Design

52 video lessons · 25837 viewers

Chris Nodder
Author

 
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  1. 1m 7s
    1. Welcome
      1m 7s
  2. 4m 37s
    1. Building a site for your visitors
      1m 29s
    2. Understanding how people browse the web
      45s
    3. It's all about information
      48s
    4. What causes people to leave sites?
      1m 35s
  3. 3m 50s
    1. Simple design
      1m 9s
    2. Consistent design
      1m 11s
    3. Standard design
      1m 30s
  4. 20m 55s
    1. Elements of navigation
      1m 21s
    2. Content has a structure
      2m 18s
    3. Understanding menus
      3m 19s
    4. Reviewing some menu myths
      2m 4s
    5. Working with site maps
      1m 5s
    6. Adding search to your site
      2m 53s
    7. Understanding links
      3m 43s
    8. Exploring clickable elements
      1m 18s
    9. Understanding Fitts's Law
      2m 54s
  5. 11m 19s
    1. People can begin from any page on your site
      1m 24s
    2. Elements every web page should have
      3m 25s
    3. Creating progressive navigation
      3m 22s
    4. Arranging your content
      3m 8s
  6. 8m 7s
    1. How people read on the web
      2m 31s
    2. Writing for information exchange
      1m 43s
    3. Formatting pages for information exchange
      3m 53s
  7. 7m 21s
    1. Using your homepage as a site summary
      1m 50s
    2. Creating fresh content
      1m 20s
    3. Displaying navigation and search
      1m 25s
    4. The five-second test
      2m 46s
  8. 8m 8s
    1. Showing people what you've got
      3m 50s
    2. Making comparisons easy
      1m 24s
    3. Creating landing pages from ad campaigns
      2m 54s
  9. 11m 22s
    1. The real purpose of detail and product pages
      1m 16s
    2. Writing descriptive text
      2m 4s
    3. Using images to set context
      2m 17s
    4. Showing the price for products
      2m 27s
    5. Have a call to action
      1m 36s
    6. About Us: a special detail page
      1m 42s
  10. 10m 58s
    1. Ask for information in context
      2m 25s
    2. Making forms as painless as possible
      2m 34s
    3. Creating form fields
      3m 37s
    4. Handling errors gracefully
      2m 22s
  11. 9m 9s
    1. Using different types of media
      1m 55s
    2. Simple question: Does it enhance the experience?
      2m 15s
    3. Using graphics for explanation, not decoration
      1m 17s
    4. What is interactive content?
      1m 58s
    5. Laying out your page for media
      1m 44s
  12. 5m 3s
    1. Making money without selling out
      1m 37s
    2. Adding graphical ads
      2m 10s
    3. Creating text ads
      1m 16s
  13. 3m 42s
    1. Simple, consistent, and standard design
      2m 4s
    2. Consider your users and you'll be fine
      1m 38s
  14. 1m 31s
    1. More resources
      1m 31s

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