|Ergonomic button shapes and arrangements|
Message #7 Posted by Karl Schneider on 4 Apr 2007, 11:33 p.m.,
in response to message #5 by Hal Bitton
Hi, Hal --
And while we're at it, lets dispense with the silly little round buttons on the 50G. You could put 6 proper keys into the space occupied by those 4 buttons...
Ah, like "cursor arrows" on PC keyboards and the original HP-48S/G series are. The probable reason for arranging these four keys in a "baseball diamond" square is improved correspondence between location and direction.
Now, as for round buttons:
Has everyone noticed how the "virtual buttons" on web-browser software -- particularly MS Internet Explorer (IE) -- keep getting goofier with every version? The ideal shape for virtual buttons is the square, because that shape makes it easiest to "land" the mouse pointer within it. The original Netscape (and Mosaic?) browsers displayed big square virtual buttons with clear borders in a row.
Then, MS used rectangular buttons just to be different, and perhaps to flatten toolbars. Netscape followed suit.
With IE v7.0, it's just bizarre: Two round buttons for forward and backward, and tiny square buttons for other functions scattered all over the place. I'm sure that it can be configured, but I haven't made the effort yet.
How about physical buttons? The ideal was probably the solidly-built, conventional American "Bell System" telephones: Square shape for conspicuity and neatness, with curved indentations to fit the fingertip, and only one direction of motion. Perfect function with a clean form.
Today, the free market provides cheaply-made telephones with buttons of all manner of weird shapes and sizes. Yet again, marketing trumps engineering.