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Kevin Arthur does user experience research and design. This blog is a personal project and the opinions here are strictly my own.

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Usability Books
  • Cost-Justifying Usability, Second Edition: An Update for the Internet Age, Second Edition (Interactive Technologies)
    Cost-Justifying Usability, Second Edition: An Update for the Internet Age, Second Edition (Interactive Technologies)
    Morgan Kaufmann
  • Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services
    Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services
    by Kim Goodwin
  • Designing Gestural Interfaces
    Designing Gestural Interfaces
    by Dan Saffer
  • Designing Interactions
    Designing Interactions
    by Bill Moggridge
  • The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist
    The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist
    by Frederick P. Brooks
  • The Design of Everyday Things
    The Design of Everyday Things
    by Donald A. Norman
  • The Design of Future Things: Author of The Design of Everyday Things
    The Design of Future Things: Author of The Design of Everyday Things
    by Donald A. Norman
  • Designing the iPhone User Experience: A User-Centered Approach to Sketching and Prototyping iPhone Apps
    Designing the iPhone User Experience: A User-Centered Approach to Sketching and Prototyping iPhone Apps
    by Suzanne Ginsburg
  • Designing the Mobile User Experience
    Designing the Mobile User Experience
    by Barbara Ballard
  • Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules
    Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules
    by Jeff Johnson
  • Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
    Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
    by Donald A. Norman
  • Handbook of Usability Testing: Howto Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests
    Handbook of Usability Testing: Howto Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests
    by Jeffrey Rubin, Dana Chisnell
  • The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies and Emerging Applications, Second Edition (Human Factors and Ergonomics)
    The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies and Emerging Applications, Second Edition (Human Factors and Ergonomics)
    CRC Press
  • The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity
    The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity
    by Alan Cooper
  • Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analyzing, and Presenting Usability Metrics (Interactive Technologies)
    Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analyzing, and Presenting Usability Metrics (Interactive Technologies)
    by Thomas Tullis, William Albert
  • Moderating Usability Tests: Principles and Practices for Interacting (Interactive Technologies)
    Moderating Usability Tests: Principles and Practices for Interacting (Interactive Technologies)
    by Joseph S. Dumas, Beth A. Loring
  • Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems
    Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems
    by Steve Krug
  • Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design (Interactive Technologies)
    Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design (Interactive Technologies)
    by Bill Buxton
  • Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps
    Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps
    by Josh Clark
  • Text Entry Systems: Mobility, Accessibility, Universality (Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies)
    Text Entry Systems: Mobility, Accessibility, Universality (Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies)
    by I. Scott MacKenzie, Kumiko Tanaka-Ishii
  • The Trouble with Computers: Usefulness, Usability, and Productivity
    The Trouble with Computers: Usefulness, Usability, and Productivity
    by Thomas K. Landauer
  • Usability Engineering
    Usability Engineering
    by Jakob Nielsen
  • The Usability Engineering Lifecycle: A Practitioner's Handbook for User Interface Design (Interactive Technologies)
    The Usability Engineering Lifecycle: A Practitioner's Handbook for User Interface Design (Interactive Technologies)
    by Deborah J. Mayhew
  • User-Centered Design Stories: Real-World UCD Case Studies (Interactive Technologies)
    User-Centered Design Stories: Real-World UCD Case Studies (Interactive Technologies)
    by Carol Righi, Janice James
  • Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set...Test!
    Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set...Test!
    by Carol M. Barnum
« Evaluating TouchPad Gesture Usability (part 2) | Main | Gabriel White on Gesture Languages »
Friday
May292009

ThinkPad W700ds with dual touch and related thoughts

Lenovo-thinkpad-w700dsDarren Rowse at the site Digital Photography School posted a review of Lenovo's ThinkPad W700ds notebook. You may not recognize the model number but you've probably seen a photo of it -- it's the beast with two screens and a built-in Wacom digitizing tablet.


I haven't tried this machine but I've been curious about what users think of it so I enjoyed reading Darren's review. It prompted a few thoughts about touchpad size and the palm-rest area:

"the touchpad really is small"

Yesterday's touchpads are small. The one on the W700ds looks like a standard pre-2008 (or so) touchpad that measures a little under 60 mm wide by 40 mm high. MacBooks now have trackpads that are about 100 mm x 75 mm and even Windows machines are getting up there, like Lenovo's Ideapad Y650 which has a 104 mm x 64 mm touchpad. (Shown below with home keys and touchpad highlighted -- ignore the orange lines please. The images are from Lenovo's site)

Y650-2   


Bigger is better for any kind of multifinger gestures and people seem to like the extra space for pointing as well. But it has its disadvantages. The biggest problem is that you're much more likely to accidentally touch it when you're typing. This is especially likely if the touchpad is not centered to the keyboard. Unfortunately the Y650 is centered to the palmrest. That may be more aesthetically pleasing, but it means your right hand very often brushes the touchpad. When it does the cursor moves and scrolling gets activated if you brush the scroll-zone on the right side. (Touchpad drivers generally have some algorithms built in to filter out accidental touches but they're not perfect.)

Back to the W700ds, which has a Wacom tablet right where you might rest your hand. It isn't sensitive to finger input so there's no risk of accidental input, but users may still not like it. Darren writes:


"at times it felt ‘wrong’ to have my right wrist leaning against it as I typed as it is placed directly in front of the keyboard area."

That observation makes me wonder whether we shouldn't just leave the palmrests for the palms. Nevertheless, I'm very interested in what you could do with huge touchpads covering the palmrests. (And lots of other people have thought about this previously too.) Here's a mockup:

Y650-2tp-2

To my thinking there is a benefit in dividing the touchpad into two regions, one for each hand. The dividing line could either be real or imaginary -- there could just be two touchpads side-by-side or there could be one wide touchpad with a virtual invisible dividing line.

Two-handed input has been the subject of a lot of HCI research that argues that we'd have better user interfaces if we did a better job of balancing the interactions across both hands (see for example Mackenzie and Guiard, 2001).

Much of that research builds on Yves Guiard's kinematic chain model that says (approximately) that people often use their two hands in concert like two links in a chain. The dominant hand is like the bottom link and does finer manipulations, while the non-dominant hand is like the top link and frames what the other hand does. A common illustration of this is handwriting: people tend to use both hands when writing on paper -- one hand to write and the other to continually reposition the paper.

There are some possible dual-touchpad interaction techniques that are analogous to this. For example, you might have a mode where the left touchpad allows scrolling and panning while the right allows pointing (for right-handed users). Bill Buxton and others have shown that even though users are still not likely to scroll and point in parallel, the interface is more efficient because of a cognitive benefit in splitting the tasks across the hands (see Leganchuk et al., 1998).

Another asymmetric technique that you could implement on dual touchpads is the Toolglass technique (see Bier et al., 1993) where the left hand positions a toolbox and the right hand selects tools from it.

Some gestures also might work better with two hands instead of one (see Moscovich 2008 for an experiment on this). Scaling an image is likely to be done more precisely with two index fingers than with the thumb and finger on one hand.

I'm hoping to set up a dual-touchpad prototype and test some of these ideas. I welcome any comments... Would you buy a laptop with two touchpads?

Reader Comments (1)

Wow! Another cool breakthrough from the manufacturers of Lenovo. But how heavy is this laptop? I have notice that most of the Lenovo laptops are heavy in weight. Because I'd really go for some kind of a lighter weight
June 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercheap computers

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