An overzealous application of Fitt’s Law caused me to miss another precious memory
On Sunday, my autistic son ran a four mile race for Achilles International, a group whose mission is “…to enable people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream running events.” When he was younger, he spent three years on oxygen, so this was a milestone event.
I stood along the race path near the finish line, poised to snap the perfect photo, and this was what I got:
Where did my son go?
Instead of tapping the shutter button, I was tapping the shutter and camera mode selector simultaneously, an action which results in, well, nothing. I didn’t notice until he was in front of me. At least I got one shot of him:
How did this happen?
The Camera app’s mode selector is directly above the shutter button. This is a sensible design decision: since my thumb is already on or near the shutter button, Fitt’s Law suggests the camera mode selector be nearby, as these are related interactions.
However, I have slightly larger-than-average hands (sorry, Donald), so my thumb extends beyond the shutter button a fair bit. This means that when I’m ready to shoot, I often end up tapping both the shutter and camera mode selector simultaneously. This is even worse when I shoot in landscape mode. Instead of capturing a memory, I get bupkis.
Usually the stakes are low, as when I’m snapping a casual photo or video. Then there are the non-repeatable life events like my son finishing a race in Central Park with 6,000 other runners, or the time 50+ people sang him Happy Birthday at another race event and I recorded nothing. Zilch.
Close, but not too close
Making design decisions based on Fitt’s Law is admirable, but considering edge cases like large or clumsy hands is essential, especially when the stakes are high.
In the case of the Camera app, people should be able to focus on events unfolding before them, not interface elements. In the current Camera app, I have to leave the moment to stare at my phone, making sure my thumb is placed just so. (Yes, I’m aware there are other ways to activate the shutter, but the primary method is flawed and the others aren’t part of my muscle memory yet.)
One solution to this design problem is to move the Camera mode selector farther enough away from the shutter button, thus preventing an accidental tap, but not so far that it’s out of reach. Another solution would be to activate the shutter any time it’s tapped, even if it’s tapped at the same time as the mode selector; this would allow the mode selector to remain thumb-convenient but less problematic.
Get a life
You might be thinking this is just so much griping, and maybe you’re right. But “camera” is at or near the top of the list of descriptors I’d ascribe to my iPhone, and I don’t think I’m alone. Such a glaring UI issues is somewhat surprising—and frustrating. This might be resolved in iOS 11, but this video seems to suggest otherwise.