While creating an interactive mobile app with ascetical UI elements, micro-interactions, or animated glitch effects is imperative to engage users and drive traffic as well as conversions, there’s one more thing that needs to stand the test of time, i.e., ‘Thumb-friendly Navigation Design.’
A mobile’s navigation is similar to the GPS navigation system of the cab that takes passengers to their exact drop location. An excellent navigation design in mobile devices, similarly, allows your users to navigate through the website or application and also use their smartphones with one hand effortlessly. Standard procedures for a pattern selection and integration of the primary mobile navigation are side drawer a.k.a hamburger menu and tab bar.
Thumbs vs. Touchscreens
The relationship between our mobile devices and hands, especially our thumbs, has become the subject of focus concerning the ease of use. The thumbs are key to how our hands interact with different mobile touchscreen devices and adjust to a comfortable experience.
Researcher Steven Hoober’s study demonstrates that 49 percent of users use just one hand to hold their smartphones in a variety of positions, relying on thumbs for interaction. It was further found that about 75 percent of mobile touchscreen interactions are thumb-driven. This subtly introduced theory gave birth to one central mobile design pattern that is known as the term “The Thumb Zone.”
What is The Thumb Zone?
The thumb zone enables developers and designers to focus their efforts on placing input fields, useful buttons, and other significant features in areas from where they are easily operable with thumbs. Understanding and implementing this system is the solution to creating all the navigations and critical clicks in the development/design of mobile apps so as to allow people to access the interface without difficulty, improve user experience, and also enhance the overall usability and reachability of the mobile app.
Why is this Zone Important in the mobile app design?
First comes first, the digital landscape is about the era of innovative technology, big data, social networking, and all of the above ‘the huge devices’ required to access the internet and other services, especially smartphones.
A mobile website or application that doesn’t play nice with your opposable digits might force them to get into a battle with a mandatory menu, multiple swiping elements, or a long list of other links. The trick is to design user interfaces that are thumb-friendly so that the crucial navigational elements and functions on apps should be the most comfortable to reach and use within the thumb’s natural zone. Below are some successful solutions that will help designers make the navigation tailored to the thumb, increase the usability score, and also encourage more conversions.
1. Prioritize UI Elements for the Mobile Thumb Zone
Since both screen dimensions and hand size differ with each device and every user, the Thumb Zone doesn’t have a fixed area with a predetermined dimension. Users of bigger mobile devices face more difficulty as larger formats are laid up with more restrictions. So, what’s the best fit for the thumb zone?
Although it’s not feasible to bring all the navigational as well as clickable functions within the green easy-to-reach zone, the best practice is to figure out an average stretch & requirements and keep your design patterns as user-friendly as possible. A study by UX Matters discloses that about 67 percent of people use their right thumb to interact with the design. Despite this stunning stats supportive of right-handed consumers, designers are morally required to make the UI design equally great to address both handed users.
2. Analyze and Address Navigation Problems
The first step is to identify how the Thumb Zone shifts along with the natural movement of users or when they change their grip. Some questions designers need to ask when building an interface are:
Determination of the thumb zone for a responsive mobile website or app will allow businesses to make the design to be user-centric and also deliver an obstacle-free experience. So, in a nutshell, it should be clutter free. To do so, one needs to place hidden menus and other significant components such as sticky footnotes, floaters, and drop down options in the easy-to-reach or natural thumb zone and unimportant buttons and elements in the hard-to-reach or stretching area.
3. Focus on the Size of Links
Minimally-sized icons and text can be hard to click for single-handed mobile navigation, which is why mobile app designers need to increase the size of the most critical links on their app. Putting the frequently clicked navigation elements and icons in the thumb zone will make the execution flawless and also allow users to access the menu items easily. When designing an e-commerce app, they should consider including a fixed menu at the very bottom of the screen so shoppers can swap between categories, products, checkout, and other sections quickly.
4. Use Thumb-Friendly Gestures
Due to the meteoric rise of smartphones with touchscreens, the trend of using gestural controls and touch-based elements in devices is on the rise. The pinch, swipe, tap, double-tap, drag, zoom, press, and tilt are some decisive examples of touch-based movements and gestures. The effective implementation of thumb-friendly gestures within apps bridges the familiarity gap and also enables users to engage with the interface/technology in the most natural manner by stimulating their sense of touch.
Awesome blog post! Thank you very much for sharing a comprehensive guide to understand what should be kept in mind while designing a thumb-friendly user experience mobile applications. I really liked the research aspects about the term "The Thumb Zone" because from the research it is very clear for us that huge percentage of mobile touchscreen interactions are thumb-driven only. Also, why thumb zone is important in mobile app design and the four solutions to help UI/UX designers on how to make the navigation tailored to the thumb are very helpful. Thank you.