Google says Android users prefer ergonomics of three-button navigation over gestures

From The Verge: One day after releasing the final beta of Android Q, Google is making its most direct case yet for why Q’s new gesture navigation controls are an improvement over what came before. The Verge reported on the company’s reasoning earlier today, and now Google has posted a more thorough explanation to its Android Developer’s Blog. “By moving to a gesture model for system navigation, we can provide more of the screen to apps to enable a more immersive experience,” wrote Android UI product managers Allen Huang and Rohan Shah.

No one is arguing that benefit, but the trouble Google has run into is with Android’s “back” function and figuring out the best way of preserving it with gestures — and making that solution feel second nature to the end user. “We prioritized this goal above other less frequent navigation such as drawers and recents,” Huang and Shah wrote.

“We started with research to understand how users held their phones, what typical reach looked like, and what parts of the phone users used the most. From there, we built many prototypes that we tested across axes like desirability, speed-of-use, ergonomics, and more,” they said. “And we put our ultimate design through a range of studies — how quickly users learned the system, how quickly users got used to the system, how users felt about it.”

Below is a heat map for the areas of a phone that users could “comfortably” perform gestures when using their device one-handed. As you can see, it makes a good argument for moving “back” to the sides of the phone, as Google has done in Android Q.

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