Unintended Interactions

This post was set off by something that happened in my car the other day: You see, I have a Sony head unit installed in my car, but in my experience multiple head units do the very same thing that happened to me: I went to adjust the volume, but because my car hit a small bump or I shifted a little bit, I reached a little too far and accidentally clicked the volume knob in, thus opening the menu.

In Sony’s case, clicking the volume knob also acts as “okay/confirm”, so merely clicking it a second time won’t back you out of the menu, it just takes you a level deeper. To back out of the menu, you have to find the back button, which is right next to the place call button, which if pressed will fire up a voice assistant to ask you who you want to call.

Now, imagine doing this while driving, and that back button is kind of minuscule. Even if you have great muscle memory, hitting that little button is going to suck. 

This all began because of a unintended interaction. There is no “are you sure”?  There is no easy way to say “no, I did not mean to do that”. While I don’t think Sony’s engineers designed their user experience with malicious intent, a lot of what I see in other places almost feels like it is.

At least with something like the head unit, the interactions are physical (for the most part).

With modern phones and tablets, however, the whole display is a hot zone, rife with opportunities for untended interactions, and it almost feels like some have designed with this in mind to try and get you to mistakenly engage with things that you didn’t intend to. Facebook has things like the “add friend” button out in the open, sometimes even in your main feed. Scrolling past it can sometimes be a bit nerve-racking because if your device thinks you’ve let go and re-engaged with the touch screen…that’s a tap! And you’ve just friend requested some random person. (And yes, this has happened to me. Many times.)

You also have apps like Telegram placing UI elements together that arguably shouldn’t be, like the “start group call” button right up next to the minimize/close buttons. So if you mouse up there out of the corner of your eye and you’re not exact…congrats! You’ve just started a group call. No buffer, no “are you sure”, no countdown to cancel the call. You’ve just done the modern equivalent of butt dialing your group chat.

I totally get making some features instantly accessible, but I also feel that for a lot of these there needs to be some level of a buffer. Calling a group chat? There should at LEAST be a countdown of some sort, or an “are you sure you wish to ring 100+ people right now.” Would it be kind of annoying if you actually intended to do so? Yes. But the tradeoff would be worth it to prevent you from accidentally doing so and becoming the laughingstock of the group chat for the next couple of weeks.

Friend requests? Definitely should be a buffer. “You haven’t viewed this person’s profile. Are you sure you want to send them a friend request?” Or something that makes you confirm that YES, you really want to do this. Would save so much embarrassment.

Modern interfaces are designed around touchscreens, and capacitive touchscreens are–again–whole-ass hot zones, and need to be designed around as such. You shouldn’t have to feel like you’re navigating a minefield by just doing something as simple as scrolling a feed.

End note: This whole thing is why I really hate phones moving to a zero-bezel design. Same with tablets. Again, the whole screen is a hot zone. Things were designed with bezels so you’d have somewhere to grab onto the device without touching the actual display. Zero-bezel design flies in the face of this. I remember having an old Galaxy S7 Edge and absolutely hating it because just grabbing onto the phone was enough to cause it to start thinking I was touching the sides. Not a good experience.