I'm Aza Raskin @aza. I make shiny things. I simplify.

I'm VP at Jawbone, focusing on health.

 

The Problem With Home

If you sit and watch people use an iPhone there’s a mistake made often and reliably: They hit the home button when they mean to just go back to the app’s main screen. Going home has heavy consequences—to recover you’ve got to find that app again, sit through its splash screen, and fiddle the app to where it was before. The home button is the grunt-and-touch control of physical affordances. While iconically simple, the one bit of information it lets you indicate is too little.

Android and Palm’s WebOS have a different but related problem. Instead of providing a home button, they provide a “back” gesture/button in addition to a home button. At first this appears to be better with its strong allusion to the ubiquitous browsing metaphor. But back on the phone is unpredictable: it might mean return to the last screen, the last area, or even the home screen. You never know where back will take you. Worse, there is no undo to “back”; without “forward” back becomes a minefield of maybes and didn’t means.

Another subtle problem of “back” is that it adds cognitive overload: you have to choose which to use, back or home. Because the functionality of home and back overlap this adds a non-insignificant Hick’s law penalty. It makes it hard to form a lasting habit, and lasting habits are the hallmark of a good interface.

Solving Simplicity

The home button is too simple, and the back button’s mental model is too complex. What’s a better solution? We need a solution which is as simple and iconic as the iPhone’s home button, but provides a richer range of expression without the complexity of the Android/Palm back mechanism.

The joy of the iPhone’s home button is that no matter where you are, or what confusing app you’ve got into, you can always escape. On the other hand, users often want a way to return to an app’s home-screen, and avoid the sometimes befuddling inter-app navigation. That’s why people make the mistake of hitting the home button when that’s not what they want. They want to escape whatever hierarchy they’re in and get back to the top of the app, but the one-grunt button brings them to the phone’s home instead. So instead of trying to define the ambiguous back from Android, let’s extend the concept of home a bit to have two levels: phone-level home and app-level home. The first goes to the phone’s main screen, and the second returns to the app’s main screen. An escape lightly and escape fully.

The elegance of this system isn’t apparent, however, until you get the physical portion of the interface right. For instance, you could have two disparate buttons, but that wastes space, looks inelegant, and means you have to decide a priori over which button to move your finger. A better solution comes from camera shutter buttons.

Cameras have a two-state shutter button.

Camera shutter buttons have a two-stop action. Half-press them to lock focus and aperture settings, fully press them to take the picture. There’s a delightful tactile indent at the half-way mark so that your fingers know what’s going on. Let’s borrow this two-stop action for the home button. Press half-way to go to the app’s main screen, all the way to go to the phone’s main screen. If you need to fully escape mash the button. If you just want to head back to the main-screen of the app, tap lightly. You can easily convert a light-press into a heavy-press mid-action. It’s as naturally a mapping as you are going to get.

The two-state home button is a more subtle and humane solution than what I’ve seen, while still retaining the iconic simplicity of the current iOS solution. Personally, I hope an Android OEM decides to make it happen. Are they any better solutions? If you’ve got one, put it in the comments.

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With camera shutter buttons, it’s explicitly a two-step process. First you declare your intent to take a picture by depressing lightly (whereon the camera lens focuses), then you take the picture by depressing fully. I don’t think the metaphor is the same when encoding two distinct actions that would not be taken in sequence.



    Aza Raskin

    Returning to the phone’s home screen is a more drastic version of returning to the app’s home screen; I think the metaphor does continue.



      Chris Jaure

      I would have to agree with Ben. What if I want to return to the home screen but save the state of the app because it supports multitasking?

      In this case, accidentally returning to the home screen of the app is more destructive than accidentally returning to the home screen of the phone.

      The two actions should never be performed in sequence, not even accidentally, whereas with a camera shutter button, the two actions must be performed sequentially.



      Siddharth

      Simple.
      Single Click – App Home
      Double Click – Phone Home


        Obtaining consider half-press on the shutter release press button is oftentimes by far the most bothersome element involving digital photographic camera if you are an expert. This is precisely why My spouse and i altered photographic camera adjustments to obtain committed Emphasis press button. Far more user-friendly, due to the fact now I know My spouse and i emphasis after i will need and will consider photograph on the specific instant I need. The two of these steps may be segregated over time. Folks hardly ever achieve this task as it is difficult to discover it is possible to if you do not browse the complete handbook or perhaps an individual alerted you regarding it. However this particular element is perfect for professionals… Folks upon road do not worry about emphasis whatsoever. They need fine photos! This is why don’t you enjoy everyone utilizes half-press in order to focus… the majority of simply push. After which fault the actual photographic camera with regard to poor performance as well as blurriness



    Dan Burzo

    That was my first thought: in the case of the camera, the full push is always preceded by a half-push. You also have time to keep the button half-pressed for a while, and then press it fully to snap the picture.

    In the case of the Home button, you need to have a ‘back to home’ action that is not necessarily related to the ‘back to app home’ action.

    In Venn diagrams, ‘snap a picture’ is a superset of the ‘trigger focus’ bubble. On the iPhone, the bubbles are disjunct.


      I think there is a greater problem with the overall modality of iOS. It’s a pain in the ass and my iPad already is littered with icons. At least android has a system that assumes you don’t want 100 icons on the desktop. Folders aren’t much of a solution. http://desainkantor.blogspot.com


      Your posting solve my problem


    Does anybody remember the Nintendo quadriplegic controller? You just suck and blow in it to control the game. The blow job games were the best.


    Thanks for the info


    Having focus on half-press of the shutter button is sometimes the most annoying feature of DSLR camera if you are a pro. That’s why I changed camera settings to have dedicated Focus button. Much more user friendly, because now I can be sure I focus when I need and can take photo at the exact moment I want. These two actions can be separated in time. People rarely do so because it is hard to learn you can unless you read the whole manual or somebody told you about it (this is my personal case). But this feature is for professionals… People on street don’t care about focus at all. They want nice pictures! That’s why not everybody uses half-press to focus… most just press. And then blame the camera for slowness and blurriness



Yatrik

Although I like the tactile solution for an Android-esque OS, I don’t think it applies to WebOS.

I believe WebOS has a forward gesture (although it may work in Web only, it *should* work in apps.)
Also, Home is not the same in WebOS, and the “home” gesture — tapping the centre area — just zooms out on the app, not really killing it or confusing you in that sense.



    Aza Raskin

    It is certainly true that leaving the app in WebOS is much less destructive; although there still is no way for you to get back to the start screen of an app easily. No way to reset.



      Dan Fabulich

      That suggests an easy fix for webOS: add a “Reset” gesture. (Perhaps two-finger back?)

      If they added support for this in, say, webOS 2.1, all pre-2.1 apps could support it by destroying the app and restarting; all post-2.1 apps could listen for the event and handle it, improving performance.



        Yatrik

        Yeah, although WebOS has enough gestures to learn anyways — adding another one has to be the absolute last option.


      It would probably be nice to be able to do one-click “reset” to a home of an app, but less common and important than an ability to *go back to a state of an app on which we recently left it*. Android mostly allows for it (a long press of a Home button), WebOS is even better as I heard.

      I’d prefer to be able to go to device home, app home, app in a state we left it, previous state, next state… but that’s too much.


      WebOS is so consistent. The back gesture is allways related to the App, unless the App is at a home screen, and which point the back button shrinks the App and allows the user to swipe to another open App. The Home button always goes home.

      WebOS is beautiful, and I enjoy using it. When I touch an iPhone or Android I become frustrated at the lack of constancy [more so at android]. I can’t wait for WebOS 2.x.


        I have read so many posts concerning the blogger lovers except
        this piece of writing is in fact a nice paragraph, keep it up.


An alternative could be a simple ‘press’ and a ‘press and hold’. Using a ‘press’/'press and hold’ approach would allow the button to be a touch screen area or a physical button.



    starwed

    Android already associates an action with “press and hold” for the home button — it brings up a task manager-like list of the most recently used apps.



    thisisgordon

    +1



James King

My knock with this is that it is not an apparent solution. Though it could probably be easily learned.

I think there is a greater problem with the overall modality of iOS. It’s a pain in the ass and my iPad already is littered with icons. At least android has a system that assumes you don’t want 100 icons on the desktop. Folders aren’t much of a solution.

Another problem with iOS is when a program launches another. There isn’t a simple mechanism to go BACK to the original program. I know this was kind of addressed in this post but damn it’s an issue.



    Aza Raskin

    The WebOS solution (especially with their new stack interface) is a reasonable solution. Also, more tangible solution proposed by the Twitter iPad app could also work for layer applications.


      Android solution is to hit back button to go to either previous activity of a current app or to a last activity of a previous app. It feels natural.

      Could someone explain how WebOS stack works and why it provides a better solution?
      How does Twitter iPad app do it? (but that’s apparently within a single app, not between two apps.)



    Wes Campaigne

    To go back to the original program: iOS 4 has essentially solved this. Double-tap the home button then tap the bottom left corner.



Asa Dotzler

I’ve talked with many camera users who can’t quite master the preview/autofocus level of the shutter. Perhaps it was poor hardware, but I suspect it’s something more. It’s a gesture that doesn’t have many other equivalents in life. It has to be taught and and then practiced to be mastered.

Maybe better to just make the first touch of the home button take you up one level to the top of the app and a second press take you to the top of the OS.


    Agreed. This is also what people naturally do (hit escape again if it doesn’t work the first time), so it is a good affordance.



    Aza Raskin

    I’d argue that it is poor hardware that makes it the case. Most modern digital cameras have the two-step shutter. The nice thing, however, is that even if you never fully master the two-step button you still get a reasonable behavior. It is a linearly learn-able system.



    Dea

    This is the reason why this is a bad idea.
    You have to know about the two step action before you can use it.

    I’ve seen so many camera users whine about the camera taking the picture a second after they push the button because they dont know it’s focusing that takes a second and then by pushing the button further they can snap in a millisecond.

    Speed is also an issue, you have to feel how hard to press which might be hard if you start with your fingers on the screen and not the button itself, the home button is something you just mash down as fast as you can. Not like a camera shutter that you have your finger and mind on all the time.

    I do think the concept is good but i dont think it will work in real life on average users.

    Btw, if you are looking for more comparisions; another place where you can find these buttons is the touchpad on the new macbooks, either you can just tap your finger or you can click the whole pad down.


    I agree with the 2-touch solution – it makes sense. Press once to make “partial” escape, twice for “full” escape.

    The problem with using a two-stage button on smartphones is that people don’t really concentrate on that button that much and will probably miss whatever feedback it gives for “half-way pressed”.
    When you’re using a camera and taking a picture, you’re more likely to concentrate on the whole process – you’re framing the picture, you’re holding still, maybe tweaking some settings, etc. So in that mindset you’re also paying more attention to the button and are going to feel it go through the first stage and then on to the 2nd. With a smartphone you just want to quickly get back to home screen or top of the app, and you just press the button.
    In fact, I often do that kinda thing while walking – I’d quickly check my messages and then hit the home button twice (modified nexus one launcher) to get back to home page. But, there’s no way I’d be able to detect half-press while walking.


While I agree that there is a burden for the user in the home button behavior I don’t think a two state button is the right answer. The proof of that is in your example. Sure as a person who knows cameras and makes an effort to take quality photos I know that I lightly hold down the shutter button to lock in a good focus. But how many times have I had to try to explain that concept to a friend or stranger when it came time to hand the camera over. The everyman doesn’t see a button as a two state interaction. It’s been a while since I have owned an iPhone but among the friends I know that have them that are not UX professionals I don’t think I have ever observed them using the advanced features of the phone such as holding down the home button, foldering apps, you get the idea. I think if you believe the thesis that it’s a one button phone because its a dead simple interface for everyone then really the solutions lie in the design consistency of the apps themselves. Not sure I can solve that in a blog post but as app design iterates over generations I imagine (hope?) that standards set in.


    Totally agree and have seen these issues arise and actually see it when viewing the photos, they’re a blur because the user isn’t aware of this soft touch. Now to be fair the solution may work with repeated use but still it’s a very hidden feature and by no means understood by the majority which brings me to another point that I see a lot iphone users do who are very heavy in their touch which again presents problems with these sorts of subtle interactions.
    Also I think we have this home button preforming too many functions and to add such a subtle action offers little for a better outcome in my opinion. Wes mentioned above we already have it with a double tap and a further tap in the left corner. This has a clearer meaning to average user, especially considering the double click paradigm from the desktop yrs…

    Also, what about just designing better in-app ux instead…


The other thing is I don’t understand why Apple doesn’t give the possibility to use wholly the multi-touch gesture in their APIs. It could be a solution to go back – or go Home – as we can do with a trackpad on a Mac. For example, swipe two fingers – anywhere in the app – to go back (or to go to app’s homepage), and three fingers to go to the home screen.
By the way, the idea of going back to app’s home-screen – with a dedicated action – is great and this two-state button could be an answer.


    That could actually be a truly unique and genius solution to this problem.

    Many Apple-users are familiar to two-, three- or even four-finger swipes so why not leverage that knowledge?



      Simon Lessing

      Because it’s not possible to perform with one hand and thus not practical 80% of the time for phone users. Tablets could have it though, if you find a solution for apps that want full multi touch.



Damian

Hi Aza,

I guessed where you were going with this and it makes a lot of logical sense, but what you lose with this approach is discountability.

I consider myself a relatively technical person and have grown up with technology. I found the camera shutter button very confusing and disorientating until someone explained it to me, I did the same action but got different results and I couldn’t initially figure out why.

Maybe this is more intuitive to other people though and it’s just my mild dyspraxia.


the android back button takes you back to the screen you saw previously. If it does not, that app is in the wrong, and once you click back and it doesn’t do what it is supposed too, you can either let the dev know or get rid of it



Wes Johnston

I wouldn’t say that camera “focus” buttons are discoverable, or even good design.

I’m more a fan of Don Norman’s statements about this stuff. Namely, long tap buttons or buttons with multiple actions are undiscoverable. You’re better to map each button to a single action, even if it costs you a little bit in terms of aesthetics. Best solution is both obviously, but if you have to give up one, aesthetics should go.


    Long tap quickly becomes a standard. It is widely used on Android phones and I even saw designs which use it on PC!
    It doesn’t need to be easily discoverable if it is a wide-spread standard. It is better than multitude of additional buttons.


I don’t agree about the “a back-button doesn’t help, it tends to make things worse.”-assumption.

As you said in WebOS, there are some cases in wich “go back” results in a “go to homescreen”-action. Here it’s equal to hitting the home-button: it simply un-maximises (but doesn’t minimizes or hides) the current window.

One single tap on the last active window (sitting right in the middle of the screen, still filling 80% of it) undoes the back-gesture in a single tap.


How about short-press and long-press for the home button? This could be done on a software level solely. There’s no need for a physically different button to provide the tactile feedback of the halfway-state.


How about short-press and long-press for the iPhone’s home button? Short-press = App home screen, long press = phone home screen. Advantage: this could be just a software update, no need for a physically different button to provide the tactile feedback of the halfway-state. Admittedly there’s the disadvantage of having to long-press for what is the single most performed action, going back to a phone home screen, but perhaps press-durations could be tweaked so that long-press doesn’t really feel too long…


    A long press of the Home button is already used by iOS (I’ll never get used to that name) to force-kill applications; useful for applications that have hung and are not responding to the “quit” message sent by a short press of Home.

    I don’t think adding another press-and-hold behavior would be advisable.


    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like
    you wrote the book in it or something. I think that
    you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is fantastic blog.
    A fantastic read. I will certainly be back.


I often thought, too, that iPhone’s Home button is way overused. iOS’s usability becomes severly limited because of this.

This is why I’m a fan of the webOS UI. There IS a forward gesture that’s supported in many of the applications, too — so it doesn’t have to be a one-way trap that you describe.

Also, the fact that webOS allows true multitasking means going “home” by mistake doesn’t cost the user a whole lot. Go back and the app is how you left it. Any app, not just a select few that uses the right API or whatever.

In my opinion, Palm got it right by putting these two distinct actions — light and full escapes — behind gestures instead of physical buttons (well, the original Pre has a home button, but the subsequent models did away with the button and relies on a gesture for the “home” action). That way, there’s less visual hierarchy to worry about, and it also doesn’t clutter up the interface.

I, for one, can’t see your suggestion of a two-state physical button working well. It seems way too subtle and delicate to work successfully, and when it fails (say, on a moving train where your hands may not be completely stable) it’s just as irritating.

Palm’s gesture area is perfect for that, and I think it’s really brilliant. I’m still waiting for other OS’s and devices to catch up to the elegance of webOS. iPad with a gesture area enabled would be pretty sweet! And a gesture area would not be as limiting as a physical button. All the things that make webOS super easy to use — back/forward gesture, app switching, quick launcher — come out of the gesture area.


Why not one click to the app main screen and another click from there (or a double-click shortcut) takes you to the phone’s main screen.

There is already precedence for this: right now, one click takes you to your most recent page of apps and two click takes you to the first page of apps.


PS sorry for the double post


Hi Aza, interest topic! But I am not particularly convinced by your idea. First of all, you omitted that iOS introduced a double-click to the home button to open a alt-tab-ish UI where you can easy go back to your previously used applications. Despite this alt-tab-ish solution is very far from being flawless, pressing the home by mistake doesn’t provide a huge penalty.
Second, the back button often doesn’t go to the home of an application, the direction might not be just vertical (within an application), as you are proposing, but also horizontal (from one application to another).
I agree with you that a better solution has to be found, I am just not sure that is a double step home button.



Simon

A hard/soft-press home button seems a bad idea to me – it’s not at all intuitive, and it’s something easily done by accident.

Long/short-press doesn’t help much either – that’s something I’d associate with hard-shutdown of a device, or more generally, things that should intentionally be difficult to perform to avoid consequences.

Honestly, two buttons seems reasonable to me – as long as behaviour is consistent between apps.



John Evans

I like the two step physical home key, it’s nice and simple. However I wondered as I read your post if you are perhaps trying to solve the side effect of a different problem.

First a comment on back. All mobile platforms use the drill down/back pattern, iOS included, the only difference is in the notion of back; back is either hierarchical or it’s historical. Historical back ala Palm/Android/WP7 is super confusing IMHO. If you really think hard about it even the very first Nokia phones with scroll and select UI’s used the iOS pattern of hierarchical back as did the iPod. It just always feels historical because you cannot do complicated things like switch tabs; basically back is always ‘up a level’.

So the reason I talk about patterns is because I think the issue at hand is a design pattern one. The argument you make is that back can be confusing and the home key is too simple but has it’s perks. I can agree to both of those statements. I can also agree that users want to quickly get back to the app ‘home screen’ and by home screen I assume you mean the start or top level. For example a browser or calendar has no ‘home screen’.

So to achieve this your suggesting adding an extra action to the home key, a solution I could also kinda go with. However isn’t the real issue at hand apps that have too much hierarchy? I.e.we need a solution to mak going back ‘home’ less complicated.

Twitter apps are a great example of drill-down bloat, a thing they have tried to fix on the iPad with a new pattern. However if we look at a similar app e.g. Facebook on the iPhone, they have a design pattern which only goes two levels deep. This means home is two taps on the top left corner of the screen. Which is simple, consistent and understandable. Which shows that it’s possible to make going home very easy without the need to make a hardware change.

The other thing I thought about when reading the article is what would happen in apps where pressing back saves, would it save and jump me up two/three/four levels? How would that be visualised because if I can skip entire views then I will not see the end of the feedback loop.

Either way an interesting issue to think about, I guess for me it feels like the real issue is drill-down bloat and not the home key.



David Regev

I haven’t (yet) used webOS, but my impression from reading about it is that it doesn’t suffer from these problems. The Home button zooms out slightly to bring you into card view, and you can easily tap on your window again to go back, as it’s right in front of you. Also, from what I can tell, repeatedly using the Back gesture will keep you in the application and will not bring you to the application list or to card view (unlike Android). If I’ve made a mistake here, I invite anyone to clarify.

As with some many interface problems, a great solution here is zooming: zoom in to increase depth and detail within the information space, and zoom out to get more of an overview, with the highest-level overview being the application’s Home screen.


I think you’re forgetting one of the key functions of the home button. The engineers want it as the “get the user out of that broken app button.”

iPhone engineers fundamentally distrust all iPhone app engineers. That’s probably a good thing since some large percentage of the app on any platform will be bad software that would strand users in an indecipherable morass of menus and options.

The “simple” home button is made to get users out of bad apps. That why it returns to the home screen of the phone. Annoying interface is better than getting stuck.

The real issue with the two-step button is how to keep the second step as an easy out of a bad app.



Ankur Jalota

First, I’m not sure I agree with your observation that this is a common problem – I’ll have to watch for that from now on.

Secondly, in which apps is this happening? Is it happening in Apple’s apps – Mail, Phone, App Store, etc.? With a dedicated navigation bar, I would think that it would have a higher rate of being used than the home button.

Third, for a mobile device, having a 2-stage button is accident prone – for example when the user is walking, in a car, or some other non-stationary state, where fine finger movement is more difficult.



Karthik J

Touch Sensitive home button
Single Click for Home.
Gesture support for Back, Forward etc..


The problem you describe is probably why Windows Phone 7 includes two physical buttons: home and back.
It’s easier to discover, easy to build habituation and also avoids accidental presses.



Majken "Lucy" Connor

My old phone did short hold -> up a screen, long hold -> home. This wasn’t a problem because it had a separate power button. Interesting that this problem is “unsolved” when there have been other behaviors in the past.

That camera half click thing bugs me. I can’t get it right. I think on some cameras you have to click once, let go, and then click and hold to take a picture. In the mean time pics come out blurry because you were trying to push the button hard enough to take the pic in time. I’ve had a much easier time with length of time differentials than with sensitivity.



Salem AlSalem

The general idea is great, but using an initial softer push will welcome mistakenly pushing it during heavy gaming and browsing. The current design is hidden and can serve the purpose of the button very well. I think if you made that “App Home” button harder to get to (during gaming… etc) it would lessen the frustration and and the anger.

For example, why not keep the current home button design and cut it in half. pressing half of it will take you to the app home or back where you want, pressing both together (which easier since the are almost the same button) will be the normal home.

Another idea is making a button within a button without disturbing the current design. The current square on the home button could be that button or make it slightly bigger and faded within the surface of the button.


Using technology we already have now we may assign long-click to system home and short click to app home


Nice idea, but there’s a problem. Apple have already overloaded the home button with the 2x for multitasking. This may add confusion when used with a shutter style button. The current button doesn’t have an action associated with the ‘hold’ action (I.e. Depress for a second instead of a tap). However, this would be equally ugly overloading of the button.


Camera shutters have a major flaw: They imply the user is capable of such finely-honed tactile sensation and reaction. This is not always the case and disabilities can prevent this from working very well. An alternative should always be available.


    yes and canon offer this with the ae lock button on the back, not sure if nikon as something similar, I think they do.. and the people that use this function swear by it….


I find your way to be very elegant.
At least the idea to have a double function button. At my first contact with an iSomething somehow I thought it the button functions the way you depicted.

Another way around could be to have a time trigger. A tap and a double tap, like the states of icons on desktop (select & execute).

The only issue with your way could be the fact that you already have something like a longer hold which triggers or could be associated with a lock screen or shut down of the device.



DDD

Hmm… Doesn’t sound like a problem with the button, more a problem with the applications.

It is another case of “nested UI components”. The deeper the nesting, the more likely the user is going to get confused. Adding more buttons is a bodge over making the applications simpler to navigate.

Ultimately, designers will have to accept that mobile phone apps must be kept extremely minimal.



    Mark

    totally agree with ddd. this is an app’s ui problem, not the device’s.

    consider that many apps don’t even have a “home screen”. Or even have a home screen that makes sense to access all the times. Does this button mean pause if I’m playing a game or do you quit the level and game to go home? Or do you disable it leaving a button that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t?

    Also consider that when you’re nested deep in a hierarchy, jumping all the way up to the home screen can be a pretty destructive action. many times, it would be quicker to accidentally quit the app and reload it back to it’s nested hierarchy than to navigate deep into table/list views to get back to the screen you may have accidentally left.

    And fyi, I (like many photographers) use a completely separate button to focus my SLR. The AF-Lock button allows the shutter release to not have a half-press state which can get in the way with action shots or focus and re-compose workflows.



Chris Swetenham

I thought you were going to suggest something different that fits the camera metaphor better: half-press would preview where the button will send you. You can release to cancel, or confirm with a full press. This would allow the button to act as “back” without the user risking going back further than intended.


I think this solution is genious! I’d love to see it implemented.


I like the short & long press suggestions but it really seems that there is a hardware solution being offered to bad software design. Or has all hope of well designed apps (which make it easy to get back to the start of the app easy if that’s something a user would want to do) been abandoned and it’s now necessary for the hardware manufacturer to work round the problems caused by the creators of the software.



    Jonathan Morgan

    I’d guess not quite. If “back” or “get out of this” or “get to the start” is a common operation (and it is) then having software developers add it to their program makes it prone to:
    1. Being put in different places and/or working in different ways in different programs. This loses all the benefit of having a common operation.

    2. Not being implemented by developers who forget / don’t care about it (making it less likely to build into a pattern that users can just rely on).



      Wes Campaigne

      Building it into hardware only solves the issue of making sure it’s in a consistent place. All the other problems would still remain.

      Even worse, the presence of this hardware would open the question of what the action will or should do even when it makes no sense — as common as they are, “back” or “get out of this” or “get to the start” are NOT universally applicable operations in iOS.

      On an iOS device, every hardware button performs a core system-level function, and has the same meaning independent of where you are in any app. And all of these functions make sense as things the user might want to do at any time, in any place, in any app.

      “Back” or “get out of this” or “get to the start” fail this test. They’re purely application-level functions, and so their result would be unpredictable. Better to stick with the iOS status quo of using labelled, on-screen buttons for “back”, and to redesign “main menu” oriented applications to avoid the idea of them having a “start” and the need for a “get to the start” button.



Hugues Peeters

Interesting idea. You suggest a sort of scale in touch force. A sort of “the more you press, the more you exit”.

But if we extend the comparison with camera, on these tools, the full press is the default action (« take a picture”), and halfway press the alternate one (“adjust the focus”). Is it really the way you see the balance between “Back” and “Home” on a smartphone ? For me, back should be the “default”, shouldn’t it ?

But if we reverse the action (full press for home and half press for back), we don’t follow the scaling philosophy. So theirs is something amiss.

Continuing to think, I wonder if it would’nt be better to slightly shift the philosophy of your “one button approach”, by using a single press / double press principle: press once would mean “go back to the previous screen”, and press twice “go back to home”. That way the default OS behavior would be inline with the default button action, and the scaling principle would be respected. Just my two cents …



Pascal Sartoretti

Great idea !

A possible drawback : the “Home” button often wears out and become less responsive, due to time or fall (I have had both with my first iPhone). With a more sensitive button, the problem may appear sooner.

But a great idea anyway, you should patent it :-)


I don’t know of any child younger than 10, or most old people, who can physically manipulate a two-step shutter button correctly. They either don’t press it hard enough, and wonder why the picture never got taken, or can’t stop halfway to get the focus behavior they want.

Perhaps we could solve the same problem by making the back button more predictable!



Constantine Zuev

Aza, I see a major flow in your solution. Having two functions on one button is always a problem. Always.

First I need to mention, the photography is my hobby and I shoot a lot. Having focus on half-press of the shutter button is sometimes the most annoying feature of DSLR camera if you are a pro. That’s why I changed camera settings to have dedicated Focus button. Much more user friendly, because now I can be sure I focus when I need and can take photo at the exact moment I want. These two actions can be separated in time. People rarely do so because it is hard to learn you can unless you read the whole manual or somebody told you about it (this is my case). But this feature is for professionals… People on street don’t care about focus at all. They want nice pictures! That’s why not everybody uses half-press to focus… most just press. And then blame the camera for slowness and blurriness.

Second thing… Apple has clearly stated in their AHIG – you have only one option to get back, it’s at top left corner and it’s named like the screen you were before. If you don’t see it – blame the developer (or UI designer) for violating guidelines and braking our behavior habits. The sad thing – nobody reads guidelines, like nobody reads a manual for a camera.

Half-press is bad idea. You can make a mistake, you can press too hard or too gently… Buttons can became less responsive after several years of use (I have an iPod touch with this problem). The best solution, is not having a button at all IMHO ;) Like use a gesture on dedicated surface part for the example. Have you considered such idea? :)


Well, I happen to agree with the Nokia UX lead that recently said at a conference that any physical button on the front side of the phone is wrong design.
At the same time, I agree with him that we don’t have the really good answers yet how a phone UX should really work, and it will take us more experimentation to get there. After all, it even took the car industry interestingly long until they came up with the steering wheel as a primary UI element, and smartphones are quite new technology, so it will take a while until we find the really good solutions.
Keep up the thoughts on that, it’s surely interesting to read different insights in what different people think how things should work, perhaps we’ll find a really good UX some time!


Most muggles don’t get the double state on the camera button. They just click.

Its important not to combine two important actions like Home and Back into one button. It would be hard on muggles.

I would argue for a two button approach, like android, but with the ability to click and hold on the back button to show a list of locations, back and forward. Android could implement it in the near future.

On the other hand, I also like the scroll ball. Not sure if I’ll ever get a phone thats just right for me, with a home, scroll ball and a back button.



bob

Ever watched your average user use a camera with the galf-press feature? Most don’t know it exists or don’t know how to trigger it reliably. Instead they just press the button and deal with the frustration of not knowing when the picture will actually be taken. It might be simple and delightful to an advanced user like yourself, but normal people find it unpredictable and frustrating.

Plus, thus isn’t up to OEMs. Apps have to know to respond to the half-press gesture. Android would have to support it natively.

Oh, and then you’re back to an unpredictable state where you try a half-press without knowing whether the app has implemented it.


It’s an interesting idea, but on Android phones “Back” is not always pressed to go to a home screen of a current app. Often there is a chain and Back always makes one step back in a chain. There may be several applications in a chain, or several states of the same application. Aza proposed to remove part of Android functionality for the sake of simplicity… I’m not sure I agree. I would rather think about opposite – adding a “Forward” button… but it probably would introduce too many difficult logical questions.

“Half-pressed” and “Fully-pressed” Home buttons are already busy on Android: going Home on a short press, displaying a list of recent apps on a long press.

Does iOS provide a similar way of choosing among recent apps? I know that webOS does provide even more elaborated way of doing that. The worst is WP7, which, reportedly, not only doesn’t provide a simple way for jumping between recent apps, but simply does not keep state at all, making it impossible to jump back to an existing state of an app. You always need to start app again and repeat all the steps for going to a particular state. Simple? Yes, but at the expense of essential functionality. No multi-tasking, that’s it – a biggest drawback of WP7.

http://www.google.com/buzz/volmarias/G5HFaH83Hs3/The-Problem-With-Home-Aza-on-Design



Bryan

The app home screen function would have to be defined by 3rd party developers so it would end up being as unsafe as Android’s back button. I think Apple got this right: You only have hardware buttons for global functions that always have a clear definition. In iOS, that’s home and volume. The minute you have hardware buttons that are defined by 3rd party developers you invite anarchy.

What would “home” mean in a game, for example? The splash screen, the main menu, pause? On many apps (Mail, Dropbox, Facebook, for example) the home screen (i.e., the lowest level in the hierarchy) isn’t the screen you would necessarily want to go back to (they all initially open in more informative screens). In some apps you’ll spend all your time in one place and, thanks to saved state, will consider that the “home” screen even if the developer has other ideas. It’s also ripe for abuse; lite versions of apps could take you back to the “buy the full version” screen, for example.



Brian cray

What about one touch for app home and hold for home. The problem without the half touch approach is that often we’re holding the iPhone with one hand, which means touchin the iPhone gently may be awkward



bobt

The 2 stage button is too tricky a concept. The beauty of the home button (before apple started overloading it) is that it is a consistent function.

And this is the key point I think your missing. When you are using the button of the iPhone you are CONTROLLING THE PHONE, not the app.

The home button should not be used by applications. Thats what the glorious touch screen is for. This is why I didnt buy the nexus one. The trackball.

As for app consistency, I think this is a bad idea. Cookie cutter apps dont please. They should merely be “familiar” in how they function.

The phone is a machine, people are not.



Jon Hendry

I’ve thought it would be handy if the remote controls on the earphones could work in camera mode. Perhaps pressing either end button would lock focus and exposure, and pressing the center would trigger the shutter.



Geletka

Touch screen, hold, pie menu, center home, surrounded by active apps. Slide up with finger on pie slice for app current state, slide all the way up for app home. Pie grows on slide. Touch outside pie to close, or wait for inactivity. Power / reset only physical button. Push up vertical for unopened apps. Pull down vertical for system settings.



Christian Augustin

I second those pointing at the difficulty for many, especially older people to manage two steps in a button. And it (physically and mentally) interferes with the new double-click to get … essenctially to a task-switcher! That’s what this new iOS 4 “multitasking” menu (or whatever it is called) is at least.

I personally find the whole use of the home button “backwards”, now that there are multiple apps running (or, better, mostly “sleeping” in the background). This is what drives me nuts with my iPad, this constant double-clicking of the Home button to switch from a website to a note-taking app and back and forth and back and forth and …

So, single-click is Home, double-click is Task Switching – it should be the other way round: Give me the running apps with a single click, with an added Home/Desktop icon always at the front of the list; go directly to Home with a double click (less needed, and for those that can’t manage a double-click – older people again – there is the Home/Desktop icon in the list).

Only problem: Stopping a phone call on the iPhone (which is also done with the Home button, as far as I can recall without being an iPhone user …). Perhaps the Home button could work in this case as it did in the past.

No pie menu. I would guess that this would be also a problem for … you’d guess it ;)


OTOH I would love to see guidelines on using the swipe to get to app main screen then home in the same way iPod nano does it, with IOS.



akatsuki

You are misunderstanding one fundamental issue with the dual action button – the halfway step is a preparatory step for the final step. Going to the main page of an app is not a prep stage to go the main screen. And, frankly, if an app needs a return to home button all the time, it is either trying to do to many things or the designer needs to rework his UI.


I’d rather have a half-press bring up the multitasking dock, and a full press bring me back home.


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Manoj Mehta

Hey Aza,

iOS needs to send an event to the currently focused app to navigate to its Home screen when the user invokes a half-press action. 2 things here:

1. Though elegant, the half-press needs to be done perfectly or else can result in confusion and/or frustration – “I clicked (too softly) but I can’t go home”, “I wanted to go to the app’s Home screen but I clicked too hard”. I have to still tell folks that they need to press down hard to take a picture with my Canon.
2. Wouldn’t most apps that cared about having a Home screen have an on-screen control that lets the user go Home?

Manoj



Scott

The Twitter app goes to the “home screen” when you swipe the top navigation bar from left to right. Maybe other programmers need to adopt that functionality if they have the ability to drill down like that.



    Pat

    I think the Tweetie 2/Twitter for iPhone/iPad approach to this problem with the swipe of the navigation bar should become a system wide solution. With that in place the problem would be solved, and current hardware would support it. Plus it’s pretty easy to explain, and remember for new and non technical users.



Andrew Durdin

There’s another problem with the Home button: clicking it has been overloaded to mean an enormous number of different things, and it’s highly context sensitive. Pressing it once in an app to reach the home screen is about the only consistent thing it does: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adurdin/4944720731/lightbox/



Hamranhansenhansen

I’ve never made this mistake with the iPhone home button. Maybe it is more common among people who use a number of different phones and expect a back button? Me, when I’m in an app on iOS, I’m in that app … all of my choices are on the screen, I have to mentally exit the screen and the app to go to the home button.

Out of all the buttons in the world, the one I most despise is the 2-state camera shutter button. Especially on point-and-shoot cameras, all it does is delay the taking of the photograph until the moment is lost. It’s a bug that the camera can’t focus on its own and simply take the photo that you wanted when you pressed the button. If Apple made a camera, it would have a one-state button and people would love it, like they love the iPhone camera.


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Ernie

I prefer something like the outline navigation button found on TIVO remote controls. This button allows up and down movement within a list by tilting the button up or down, selection of an item in the list by tilting the button to the right, or return to the previous level by tilting the button to the left. The latter is the issue in search of a solution in this post.



David W

Don’t like. The camera two step button is intuitive. I am about to take a picture, and I just want to get everything just so. Pressing the button halfway down is intuitive for this process. You almost do it naturally.

Pressing halfway down on the “Home” button is not intuitive. I am not thinking “I want to return to the home screen”, but “I want to get back to the “top screen” of this app. That’s two different things.

The real solution for the app is to be designed correctly in the first place, so that users can easily get back to the top screen.

By the way, is this an older post? People keep talking about how difficult it is to return back to the app. I have the iPad with iOS 4.x on it. All you have to do is double click on the home button, then press the first icon on the left. This will get you right back where you belong. Can’t get any easier than that.



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Rick

Apple has already addressed this to a small extent: pressing Home returns you to whichever iPhone screen you were on, so you don’t have to hunt for the app if you want to get back into it. Pressing it again returns you to the iPhone’s home screen. Pressing it yet again takes you to the search screen, and further presses toggle between these last two.

Simply extend the metaphor one step further: pressing Home once should take you to the application’s top, if that is supported by the app; pressing it a second time (or the first time, if the app doesn’t catch it) should exit the app, and so on.


I needed a bit more room to respond (with images and such), but feel free to respond in either location :)

So here are my potential solutions for this problem:

http://www.alterform.com/miscellaneous/ui-phone-home


I can’t believe so many people have issues using a shutter button. Imagine how many more issues there would be if cameras had a focus button and a shutter button.

I like both solutions but, I think the context sensitive home press is definitely the better of the two.

I think it’s easier to map a context sensitive function to an existing physical button than it is to remember the location of an additional physical button. I think that’s why the number of buttons on video game controllers hasn’t increased at the same rate as the complexity of the games using them. (e.g. [X] fires your gun, unless your standing in front of a door then [x] opens doors)



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Mike

I like the idea of two Home versions, but I don’t like the two-step for this use case. I want a button I can feel free to mash when I’m on the go, not one I have to be oh-so-delicate with. So here’s my solution: short press of the home button = app home, long press = home home. Or the reverse (short = home home, long = app home), take your pick or base it on a study. Either way, it’s a dual-function button that pretty much everyone in our generation who has ever used a CD player (or iTunes) is familiar with.



vfede

imho the camera’s shutter is the most misused button of history. i can’t count the out of focus photos of me taken by strangers that incredibly don’t know how to use a photocamera.
put it on a phone and wait for armageddon :D


Realize my comment is late to the game for this post, but thought I would add this in since we actually tried exactly what Aza was suggesting with our original GlideTV Navigator product.

As Aza proposed, having a two state button, just like that of a camera would allow two similar but distinct actions to be taken with the space of just one button. In theory we thought it would be a great idea. However, in practice we found very different results.

In our initial prototypes of the product we had certain buttons that with a half-press would invoke on screen feedback or provide information and a full press would take action on it. So it was actually closer to a camera where half-press is more related to the full press, focus then shoot. Even still, what we found in actual testing with users though was that no one could easily figure out that there were two steps to the button. In fact it confused them, they often thought that the half-press was the actual button click, in other cases they never even realized there was a half way and would just always press all the way down. People preferred to just slam on buttons without much thought and the usefulness of the half-press was extremely diminished. It was after this testing that we realized we were better off with just regular single press buttons. Lesson learned.


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True for Russian, not so true for English.


Return the gesture is always related to the application, unless the application is on a screen, and that point is reduced again the application button and allows the user moves to another open application . The start button always returns home.


what is the problem?


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Eric

Every try just holding down the home button for a few seconds *on a AOSP Android device*? It remembers where you were, and will give you as many tries as you need to figure it out.

The issue with a two stop button is its mechanical durability when required to be extremely compact.

The trouble with including it in Android as of this moment is that it is up to the programmers of the applications to indicate a change in a navigation key when in-app.

It could create a lot of confusion if not all apps supported this feature. It could perhaps be hard-coded into the sdk, though a manufacturer would have very little to do with its success. It would be up to Google to include this feature into all apps made or updated from XX API.

What would work well IMO would be a long press for in-app home screen travels, and the standard short press for OS home.


Wow.. Nice article.. Lovely observation made.


Good Article. Such a lovely thought process to explain.

Mobiquest


I’ve had an iPhone for 6 months and yet I still find myself doing this constantly (pressing the Home button when I mean to return to an app’s home screen). I don’t think the camera shutter idea would be discoverable or easy to use, though.

To me, the simplest solution would be: press the Home button once to return to the app’s home screen if you’re more than one level deep into the app; and press once to return to the iPhone’s home screen if you’re already on the app’s home screen.



Eltiberon

Tap/Double Tap


Never thought that you can improve something as simple as home button :)


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miyuki

It was interesting subject that I have been thinking about this issue with Android mobile and Tablet.

I totally agree having 2 levels of home button controls, however, there are apps that don’t define as app-level home screen.

For example, there are 4 main navigation buttons Let’s say A, B, C and D) on top of the screen. When you tap BACK button form this each level is going back to Phone-Level home.
Even you kept tapping them: first A, next C, then B, and then D.
Finally you tap BACK button. That brings to the Phone-level home instead of back to screen B. So in your method, these 4 main screens are all app-level home.

Another app uses the BACK button totally historical data of the application. It works the same as a web browser back button. I think this also totally acceptable as people are familiar and expect how it works.

Now I have to work on Tablet back button…


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Sriram Madduri

Why should the OS developer worry about how a user goes to an Apps home screen?? Its up to the app developer to make sure that navigation within the app is intuitive. So I find nothing wrong with having a single home button that takes you to the OS home. But what I do find annoying is the back button which really is ambiguous with non uniform function across apps. The symbian model works best. Just a home button (and optionally call and end buttons on some phones). There is no back button. So if you want to quit an app, you have to do it from within the app, which shouldnt be rocket science even for naive users. Anyone who uses windows on a PC is more likely to use the X button at the corner of the window to close the application rather than just jump to the desktop screen and hope that the application quits itself. So why use a back button to quit an application? Why not a quit handle from within the application? Thats what symbian does and I think thats quite elegant. If at all you dont want to do it that way, a long press of the home button opens up the list of open apps and you can use an X button on each of the images to quit the app if you like. iOS has this, but unfortunately they made it the only way to quit an app. Disgrace. Symbian is a nearly dead OS, but theres stuff to learn from those who made it.


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So I find nothing wrong with having a single home button that takes you to the OS home. But what I do find annoying is the back button which really is ambiguous with non uniform function across apps. The symbian model works best. Just a home button (and optionally call and end buttons on some phones). There is no back button. So if you want to quit an app, you have to do it from within the app


Honestly, if people don’t realize the home button always takes them.. home, they’re either too old to use a phone or have a learning disability.

I’ve never met anyone who’s had these problems.


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The stepped shutter button has it’s failings to, and I suspect make that paradigm useless in this scenario.

As a photographer since I found an old brownie camera in my grandmothers cabinet as a 2nd grader I am quite familiar with shutter buttons. I use the two step feature frequently.

Early digital cameras were terribly slow, and to avoid the shutter lag one could use the two postion shutter button to set exposure and focus and then have quick response time at the appropriate moment to get the shot. Trying to teach this technique to my wife, or anyone else who “just wants the #!@#$ camera to ‘just work’” is an exercise in futility.

Make the phone button “one click to app home”, “double click for phone home” and it would work. Everyone knows double clicks, thanks to Microsoft.



Evans Turner

I disagree. I’ve never used the home button when I wanted to go back, and I’ve been using iPhone since the iPhone 3G (the second iPhone) was released.

If I do exit an app and immediately decide to go back, I double-tap the home button to bring up the “switcher” with my most recently-used apps. The first icon is the app I just exited.

Was this post written before iOS 4?


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I disagree. I’ve never used the home button when I wanted to go back, and I’ve been using iPhone since the iPhone 3G (the second iPhone) was released.

If I do exit an app and immediately decide to go back, I double-tap the home button to bring up the “switcher” with my most recently-used apps. The first icon is the app I just exited.


Honestly, if people don’t realize the home button always takes them.. home, they’re either too old to use a phone or have a learning disability.

I’ve never met anyone who’s had these problems.


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That was my first thought: in the case of the camera, the full push is always preceded by a half-push. You also have time to keep the button half-pressed for a while, and then press it fully to snap the picture.

In the case of the Home button, you need to have a ‘back to home’ action that is not necessarily related to the ‘back to app home’ action.

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Şehir içinde olan taşımalarda siz değerli müşterilere hizmet verirken zevk alıyoruz.

Şehir içinde farklı bölgeye taşınırken öncelikle nakliyat firmasına dikkat etmenizi öneririz.

Günümüzde nakliyat firmaları çoğaldıkça iş kaliteside bi okadar düştü.

Firmamız öncelikle eşyalarınızı ekspertiz personeli tarafından baktırıyoruz.

Gerekli malzemeler ve araç bilginize sunulur.

Anlaşma sırasında el sıkıldığı taktirde taşıma günü araç,malzeme ve personeller eşyanızı taşımak suretiyle adresinize gelir.

Öncelikle eşyalar sökülür ardından paketlenir ve daha sonra araç içine konulur.

Eşya bitiminden sonra isteğiniz üzerine eşyalara değeri kadar sigorta yapılır.

Siz değerli müşterilere yapılması gereken tek görev masanızda eşinizle oturup kahvenizi yudumlamak kalır.

Sizde bu hizmetten yararlanmak istiyorsanız sadece alo demeniz yeterli olacaktır.


evden eve nakliyat 1990 yılında istanbul bağcılarda kurulmuştur.

Evden eve nakliyattta 20 yılı aşkın surede siz değerli müşterilerimizin sayesinde bugunlere kadar geldik.

Günümüzde nakliyat firmaları çoğaldıkça iş kaliteside bir o kadar düşüş yaşadı.

Biz NGT AVA NAKLİYAT olarak işimizde uzman kadro ile yıllardır çaba sarf ederek müşteri memnuniyetini en üst seviyeye çıkarmayı başardık.

EVDEN EVE NAKLİTAT’ta en önem verdiğimiz unsur müşteri memnuniyeti ve eşyanın büyük bir titizlikle taşınmasıdır.

Sizde bizim yaptığımız bu hizmetlerden yararlanmak isterseniz size bir telefon kadar yakınız.


1990 yılından bu yana Nakliyat Hizmeti veren NGT AVA evden eve nakliyat alanında en üst seviyelere ulaşmıştır.

Tüm Nakliyat hizmetlerimiz sigortalanarak nakliyesi gerçekleşir.

Ahlak sahibi personeller ve günümüz çağına uygun paketleme malzemeleri ile siz değerli müşterilerine en kaliteli hizmeti vermeyi amaçlamıştır.


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Öncelikle eşyalar sökülür ardından paketlenir ve daha sonra araç içine konulur.

Eşya bitiminden sonra isteğiniz üzerine eşyalara değeri kadar sigorta yapılır.


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