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I'm currently designing a touch tablet application that deals with cartography and elements manipulation. We need to be able to touch interact with the elements on the map and :

  • get info
  • move item on the map
  • delete item
  • mail item
  • change item layer

Therefore I need some kind of contextual menu, it has to be touch friendly and minimise errors. I have three stategies in mind :

  • side contextual menu
  • pie/radial contextual menu
  • bottom screen contextual menu

Does anyone have any feedback on successful or failure implementations of these strategies on a large monotouch device? (12" or 15")

Does anyone have other strategies in mind?

Any feedback appreciated!

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3 Answers 3

Recently I’ve tested among other cases user's interaction with simple context menu “at place" and side menu on the right/bottom sides of large sensor screens (17 – 22”) — so it showed, that classic context menu appearing near touch zone is much more appreciated.

The reason was that classic context menu is classic (pardon the pan), so the users — in my case rather conservative — were expecting it to appear near touch area — making it almost direct manipulation.

Because the area of the screen is large, and the users tend to seat closer to it (‘cause they operate with it by hands), the view angle is larger than in typical keyboard-mouse interfaces, so sometimes they even didn’t notice, that something new appeared somewhere at the edge of the screen (especially for long and narrow menus at the bottom). It was also inconvenient to physically make big movements of hand through the screen to touch the context menu items at the edge.

Another reason to use classic context menu in my case was the possibility to add more items in future, and bottom menu had real limits to group and contain more than 7-10 items — even if it was possible to add more, grouping of items through delimiters or color coding was not as obvious as in the case of casual context menu rulers. That was also the reason, why radial menu was not considered. We also noticed in earlier projects, that radial menu users sometimes recognize as some kind of navigation controls, not as context to current element (and it didn’t contain any plus/minus/arrow icons!) — maybe because of similarity with Google Maps and local geoservices controls, that users were familiar with. So, the affordance of radial menu with icons was extremely low.

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Don't use a context menu for move. Instead allow the user to tap & hold on a pin to switch to a pin-moving mode.

Your contextual controls should be displayed close to the element that the user taps, for example the way that google displays a popup when you click a pin in google maps, or apple's popovers. But, bear in mind that this will obscure part of the map. In the case of a radial menu, you will obscure in all directions.

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I suppose that by "side contextual menu" you mean the regular right-click menu that appears on the side of the place you clicked.

Pie menus are nice, except that they don't work very well with text. Most good implementations of pie menus just contain icons. I've seen some with text-only items, but they very rarely look good. And I don't think I ever saw one with icon+text.

Wouldn't go for the menu at the bottom of the screen, or anywhere else in a fixed location. Your device is large, and it might often be a long distance to travel between the selected object and the menu - and in at least some cases you'll need to get back to the object after activating a menu item - e.g. to move it somewhere on the map. Using an "edit in place" approach is a common guideline for touch devices in general, and your case doesn't seem to be different.

Keep in mind that with a side menu it's easy to solve the cases where your object is at the edge of the screen - you just display the menu on the other side. But with a pie menu, and if you mean for the object to be at the center of it, it can get tricky. You can't just display it at an offset, because then it might get centered on a different object. You don't have this problem with a side menu.

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