Iris Classon
Iris Classon - In Love with Code

Stupid Question 89: What is Hicks law and what is Fitts law

Hicks and Fitts law are two theories often applied in graphic design. Hicks law states that the more options a user has to choose between and ,if they are not grouped, the longer it will take to select an option. Fitts law states that the further the distance a user has to travel to make a selection, and the smaller the area available to click on, the long time it will take to make a selection.


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Stephen Roberts
11/24/2012 1:52:20 AM
Windows 8 Metro apps like mail demonstrate Fitts law quite well when used on a 27" non-touchscreen monitor. I get tired from moving the mouse around. 
Fredrik Björeman
11/24/2012 2:43:39 AM
One really interesting aspect about Fitts law when it comes to mouse pointing is where the best click targets are - and the fact that Microsoft has made use of this in Windows 8. It's "obvious once you've been told about it" stuff :-) … Anyway, the best click target is of course right where your cursor is right now, but after that comes the corners of the screen because they effectively have infinite size when it comes to hitting them with your cursor. And next after that are the edges of the screen as they have infinite size in one dimension. 
11/24/2012 10:51:08 AM
I just applied for a position involving GUI design and programming. If I get to the interview I'll make sure to mention the laws of Hicks and Fitts ;)
Thanks for the video! 
Andy Dent
1/6/2013 11:52:40 PM
Bruce Tognazzini wrote about Fitt's law in "Tog on Interface" and it is why the Macintosh original UI worked so well.

The fixed position menubar provides an "infinite depth" as the pointer can slide along it. The effectiveness of this is dramatically enhanced if you have a good ballistic multiplier on the mouse movement where rapid movements give a non-linear increase in distance moved. It's notable that for many years the Apple mouse control panel allowed specification of mouse "acceleration" before it was standard in Windows. It still works reasonably well with multiple monitor setups (something I've been using on a Mac since about 1990) because the acceleration lets you move over to the menu.

Even with a Windows app maximised, the fact that the menu bar sits inside the window title means this effect of "infinite depth" is lost. One unpleasant side-effect is that more constrained motion of the mouse can contribute to RSI.

The opposite of the "sliding along the edge" behaviour was a flaw in Windows until XP - there was about a 1 pixel gap underneath the Start button. So you couldn't just fling the pointer into the corner but then had to "back off" a couple of pixels to click the actual button. 

Last modified on 2012-11-22