In honour of the International Left Handers Day on the 13th August, it can be interesting to think about how the recognition and appreciation of just 10% of the population can be transferred into the digital world, because let’s face it, we live in a right-handed world...
Physical products such as scissors, can openers and ring binders are known to favour right-handed people, but there are products in the digital world that also lack inclusivity.
When investigating computer interfaces, for example, we can clearly see they are optimised for right-handed users. Command keys are located on the right hand side so that they can be used when both hands are typing, whilst shortcuts are placed to the left so that their right hand doesn’t have to leave the mouse. Unfortunately, physical designs like these are difficult to change, but our digital designs can definitely be improved for better inclusivity and overall UX.
By exploring the ways in which your content and design may not be accessible for everyone, you are able to identify the key changes that are needed. The number one place to start with is UX design.
Lacking Left: Current UX
There are many UX designs out there which have forgotten all about left-handed users, especially when it comes to mobile UX. Screens are getting larger, making it even more difficult for left handed users to navigate through a page. We have listed below the three main issues left handers face when it comes to UX design:
Difficult to reach buttons: The placement of buttons is usually on the top, right-hand corner of screens, as this is an easy reach for right-handed users. However, for lefties, this means that they have to stretch their hand across to the opposite corner of the screen. These are usually the most important buttons too, such as the command buttons.
Handiness: Because of current UX design features, many left-handed users are unable to navigate through a page with just their left hand alone, whilst right-handed users are able to access all parts of a digital design with just their right hand. This worsens user experience, especially when some mobile designs advertise that their products optimise a one-hand usability.
Missing targets: Hard-to-reach areas of the screen for left-handed users often mean that they are unable to click on a button first try. This is worsened when combined with the incorporation of small buttons, such as the ‘exit’ button.
Making The Change: Accessible UX Tips
So, what can be done to avoid these poor, left-handed user experiences? We have compiled a basic list of UX design recommendations that can be implemented to avoid the main issues listed above.
Optimised Button Placement
We can use user ergonomics data to establish the most optimal locations for buttons in UX design, especially when it comes to mobile UX. The following diagram compares screen usability for left and right handed users:
The black square indicates the optimal location - centre-bottom of the screen. This is where the important buttons should be located to reduce the length left-handed users must stretch to, allowing for better a user experience.
Avoid Tricky Tools
There are some tools that clearly have been designed with only right-handed people in mind. An example of this is the swipe command buttons; using a swipe button within your design is difficult for left-handed users as rather than pulling across the button, they have to complete the exact opposite action … push! This causes them to use their non-dominant hand, defeating the purpose of easy usability. Instead, replace these tricky buttons with a simpler ‘click’ button design, to avoid the use of two hands.
Sometimes, it is difficult to relocate a button, or to re-design it. By offering alternatives for left-handed users, you can reduce their difficulty in navigating a page. A great example is offering alternatives for an ‘exit’ button. As we have established, these are often really small, and are usually placed on the top right corner of the content, proving difficult for left-handed users. You could offer the following two alternatives to ensure user accessibility:
Use of the ‘esc’ button to exit
Click anywhere outside the content to exit out of it
Test with your left!
The only way you can really determine whether your designs are inclusive for left-handed users is by using your left hand! You should provide test runs of your designs with a number of left-handed users to receive real-life results, allowing you to make the necessary changes for an optimised design.
Accessibility for everyone
Although it is extremely important to recognise that UX design should have left-handed people in mind, it is also important to ensure that your UX design is balanced. Your digital design should not ignore left-handed users, but it shouldn’t be optimised specifically for them either.
In fact, it is important to recognise other types of users which require design accessibility too. The percentage of left-handed users is actually lower than users with visual impairments, colour blindness, and physical disabilities. Therefore, you must ensure that your design can be inclusive for everyone. That's what we strive to do with all of our designs; empathy is our super power and we work towards universal products through accessibility, usability and inclusion.