Physical Traits and Human Ergonomics in Web Design

In the beginning of every new year, I try to sum up what’s going on in the mobile industry. Not to make a top 10 trends list, but for my own education.
My thoughts this year goes along the same lines as last years post:

  • The main use case for the web is mobile (In Norway web surfing on mobile is now stable > 50%).

Last year, I also said that knowing the screen size of the device is not enough. Still true, but I didn’t realize what else we needed. Now I think I do:

Physical traits and human ergonomics of the device accessing the web is important to how we design the web.

Physical traits and human ergonomics may be summarized into “Form factor”, but this term is often interpreted as feature phone, smart phone or tablet, which is not very precise, and not the buckets we’re looking for.

I argue that human ergonomics like how you hold your device, reading distance and posture makes a difference on how you should design a website. Similarly, physical traits such as weight, size and input type are increasingly important. In this category we’ll get a bunch of new physical “form factors” like different forms of wearables, in-home devices and in-car devices.

This is to a large extent a black-sport in today’s web design. Features of the browser we know, but not so much about the actual device that the user interact with.

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