Mobile app development (and more importantly design) are adopting the concept of using your thumbs while making a mobile app. One of the main studies in this area was that of Josh Clark with his book Designing for Touch. Clark really got to the bottom of how users hold their mobile phones and how this needs to be accounted for within the design process. Thus, mobile app design has to use the best UI design, such that the thumb moves conveniently over the screen for delivering you the best operability ecosystem.

The era of thumb-friendly devices

It is difficult to study mobile user patterns. However, several types of research have been conducted to understand mobile patterns. According to one study on the mobile user patterns, most of the people use their mobile devices with a single hand. And they navigate the website using their thumb. Apple too has come out with large screen phones leaving behind its petite designs and is trying to amplify its user’s comfortable experience. Large screens accompanied with thumb-friendly UX design based are the call of the day.

one thumb, one eyeball

Luke Wroblewski, product director at Google, and long time proponent of mobile first design, notes that the mobile designs should also suit the needs of the distracted environment. The best interactive smartphone provides the test related to ‘one thumb, one eyeball’ for speeding attention within a short span. In today’s hectic life, multitasking has become the norm. Hence, mobile devices that can cater to this modern norm are most needed.

The mobile thumb zone

Steven Hoober coined the term "thumb zone" in Designing Mobile Interfaces. The "thumb zone" is an essential element in the UX/UI design and for the development of user interfaces. The developer creates all the navigation and important clicks in this zone so as to allow the user to navigate the design. Hence, designing the website requires lots of creativity and innovation. The mobile app design should be such that it must be incorporated with the relevant content and infographics that are required by the users’ business requirements.

The following UX/UI design principles help to design thumb friendly user feel:


Clutter-free Thumb zone

The mobile app design that is user-friendly should be user-centric. It should help the user accomplish their work through the mobile app and should deliver an obstacle free experience. So, in short, it must be clutter free. Mobile app developers use hidden menus; drop down options and sticky footnotes in the thumb zone for making the execution flawless.

Each screen within the app should cater to only one genuine main action. It will help the user easily understand and navigate their way through the app.

Thumb-friendly gesture controls

Mobile devices receive a variety of touch inputs and gestures as commands. Mobile users give these commands with a single hand. The UI design is at its best if the user comfortably navigates the website as well as the app single-handedly.
The locking and unlocking of screens and the opening of apps require a tap, double tap, pinch or zoom on the screen. Single-handed use of mobile devices requires thumb-friendly gesture controls. In their absence the mobile experience becomes non-engaging.

Thumb movement on the touch screen

Designing the thumb movement area on the screen is at the same time creative and intuitive task as it requires efficient planning. The mobile app developer needs to understand the important navigation and clicks on the app and the website. It is advisable to keep the most accessible navigation points within the thumb zone so as to improve the UI design for improvising the user navigation on mobile apps and websites.

The thumb-friendly zone on the touch screen is the best in time for improving the mobile user experience. Hence, it is quite necessary to make the frequently accessed options to be thumb focused. It not only delivers, users a seamless experience, but at the same time discourages them to opt for any other existing option for executing the associated activities.

Author Bio: Arun Goyal, MD at Octal IT Solution, a leading Web & Mobile App Development Company offering platform to hire a dedicated developer for your own app development project. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.