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The Opposite of Fitts' Law


I see user interfaces criticized left and right.

I do not see a lot of suggestions on how to improve them. There are books on how to create the best UI you've ever seen, but point me to one that has examples of a bad interface and then examples of how they improved it using their own suggestions.

Mr. Atwood., can you tell us how you would improve the interface you have condemned? I would apply Fitts law is not an acceptable answer.


For any “dangerous” button, wherever it is placed, what about an extended click:
Keep it pressed for a little while, say 300ms, before release or move away from it before the mouseup?


can you tell us…

For any “dangerous” button I suggest an extended click:
Keep the button pressed for a little while, say 300 ms, before the mouseup or move away from it before releasing the mouse button.


My favourite application of the inverse Fitts’ Law is Debian’s apt-get: if you’re about to do something potentially stupid like uninstall your kernel, it requires you to confirm by typing the phrase “Yes, do as I say!”


Hoping this will evoke a new dawn for the much maligned 1 pixel animated delete button.



There is a book with plenty of examples and information on UI and usability that i can recommend to you:
Don’t make me think, a common sense approach to web usability By Steve Krug.

You can read a sample chapter Here



Sorry, somehow the link didn’t pass.



My favorite example is from Sybase’s old PowerDynamo web framework. Long before Django or Rails, Sybase had this database-driven web framework, programmable in server-side Javascript.

Administration was done via a client application rather than a web interface. Normally, you’d right-click on a site’s icon in a list view and choose “Connect to…”, then do what work you need to do, then right-click on the site icon and choose “Disconnect from site”.

The only problem was that, in a misguided attempt at logical arrangement, the context menu was ordered alphabetically. That meant “Delete site” was located just before “Disconnect from site”.

Fortunately, there was an “are you sure?” confirmation dialog that came up first.

Unfortunately, they used almost-identical confirmation dialogs for both “delete” and “disconnect”…

Yes, indeed, I did once kill a production website.


@Jespetersen: Two possibilities:

  1. It’s a guide dog. It looks like a labrador, and the heavy dog collar looks like one associated with a harness.

  2. “Dog is my co-pilot”.

I feel that pressing the wrong button isn’t the issue, but irreversibility is. I wish rm was reversible: instead I have to fire up a GUI and delete it using point and click.


OMG! That’s why the Quit dialog in Mac editing programs looks like:

Don’t Save Cancel Save


OMG! That’s why the Quit menu in all Mac editing programs looks like:

Don’t Save…[long space]…Cancel…Save


I wish there was the ability to have to hold down a shortcut (certain key or mouse button) to move a mouse from monitor to monitor. Then the natural screen edges would remain.


If you are an experienced programmer, or a regular user of Google Docs, the [TAB] keystroke is very near in mind for indenting lists etc.

However, a [TAB] keystroke followed by a [RETURN] keystroke could be fatal since it sends the email without any prompt.


I use for COPY and for PASTE. Works for me in all Windows apps, and most things in UBUNTU.


A large insurance company implemented a LIGHTS OUT Datacenter in the 1980’s. All staff worked outside the room. Tapes were robotic. Printers were outside. They really ran it with the lights completely out.

An authorized person opened the door, entered and flicked the switch next to the door to turn on the lights. What was actually flicked was the EMERGENCY POWER OFF for the data center. Two water cooled mainframes, coolant distribution units, A/C units, all the minis, all disks, communications controllers, modems…

Coming back up took a few hours.

At least the HALON manual immediate dump switch hadn’t been flicked.


What if we created a mud fence around the Eject button? That is, what if the area surrounding the button (say a 10px radius) caused the user’s cursor to move at 50-70% it’s regular speed. So to mouse over the eject button would require a little bit more force than mousing over more desirable actions. It’d work a little like the protective cap on real jet eject buttons, but w/o the distracting visual drama.www.brandonbrown.org


So I just spent a few minutes looking for it without success, but I feel sure Jakob Nielsen wrote an Alertbox article about how modern machines have no excuse for “are you sure” prompts when we have all the makings needed for unlimited “undo” of any action. The gist was that if you pop up a confirmation dialog when the user tries to e.g. delete a file, all you train them to do is mentally map the “delete” action to “hit the delete key, then the enter key”, buying yourself nothing. It’s a bit like Jeff’s own post here.

I would contend that the Anti-Fitt’s Law is a lot less important than universal Undo. The Gmail thing should leave Labs and be a default-on option for everybody. If I hit Send accidentally, give me 5-10 seconds to say “Undo”. If I “delete all” in my word processor, give me robust Undo. If I hit the ejector seat, a pleasant voice should tell me I will eject in 5 seconds unless I hit the NO WAIT ONLY KIDDING button.


Everyone have their own experience in this. Though I love mac, I’m not sure why the “3 idiots” ( close, min & max) buttons are placed on the left side. As a right handed person, all I have to do is, move the cursor across the screen diagonally to do window operation.

-My Mind Leaks


my personal favourite is in windows, if you right click on the “hard drive” icon, the option next to “copy” is “format”

It has been there for every version of windows i can remember, seriously how many people format their harddrives so often that this has to be a top level option.

surely it would make sense to hide it away somewhere, even my 2 year old could click on that when they are playing with the mouse


@Bill Karwin

“or require the Fn key on some laptops.”

On a smart laptop, the BIOS lets you negate this behavior. I have a Dell Inspiron, and one of the first things I did was change that behavior.