Is the thumb mightier than the pen which is mightier than the sword? (at least on a mobile screen)

As web designers/developers are very practical human beings, I observed an interesting phenomenon on how powerful our thumbs really are.

Is the thumb mightier than the pen which is mightier than the sword? (at least on a mobile screen)

While flying back from Sydney to our Noosa Office I noticed a lady a few seats up from me, who I would describe as ‘young modern’, smart but casually dressed, well presented and groomed, cordless headphones and her phone was permanently attached to her hand for the entire trip.

I curiously observed her with great speed flick between, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Spotify and Netflix continually. Yes, the social media activity was prolific before take off and on landing. It was like watching someone eat their last meal before embarking on a 4 week diet.

It was impressive the speed at which she was able to flick between sites and the only time she used two fingers was in typing messages. Most of this record breaking action was done with her thumb.

According to our own Benchmark Data reports for 2017, 39% of users of our clients websites are exploring on mobile devices. This lead me to thinking, or observing, how it is the thumb that has the most power on a mobile device and everything that is directly in reach of it.

This realisation has lead me to reconsider where we place our mobile navigation menus, they need to be at the bottom of the page, not the top. The thumb can’t reach the top of the page (easily while holding the phone - hence why apple built their OS to invoke ‘Reachability’). We need to save our users from needing to use this feature by simply putting the menu or key action buttons in reach of the thumb both left and right hand side hot spots.

This problem has been made worse by the bigger phones that have come into the market. There is a sweet spot that can be reached by all phone users which in the middle lower third of the screen. If you use your thumbs as windscreen wipers, you will see exactly where this is on your phone.

There are many other considerations when designing for a mobile first user experience, but this is a key one if we want higher engagement from mobile users. As designers, it is our responsibility to make this a great experience for the end user and as I always say - ‘The holiday should start online, not just when your guests arrive at your hotel’.

Design matters to us, it matters a lot.

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