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I'm a mobile developer and I'm working on a pet project that has a giant button. Because this button needs to be pressed while the user's hands are likely occupied, big seems good to me. However no matter what I do it just looks like a giant ugly button.

The button kind of centers around the use of the app, and will be pressed frequently.

So I'm thinking about how to put this button somewhere. Currently its a giant button on the bottom of the page. The user also needs to be able to see the majority of the screen, so its a transparent button.

A couple of ways I'm thinking:

-Large plus sign in bottom right. Tap near it and it performs the action.

-Just tap the screen in general, screen flickers or pulses to acknowledge the tap. The user can hit another button to unlock the screen for the less common interaction. Though this seems interesting, it is extra work for the other functionality (they need to be able to zoom/scale/position an image as necessary). I'm not sure the trade off here is worth it.

-a faint, but visible, outline of where the button is. On load, it will be visible, then fade, to show the user where the button is. When touching the button, it should flash into view momentarily to provide feedback that it was tapped.

Anyone have any advice on how to deal with a large, central, user interaction?

How large should a button on a mobile device be if its expected that it may often be hit by a pinky finger while the hands are busy? Bonus points for consideration under the material design umbrella.

  • probably the most important consideration isn't here... what's the purpose of the button? What does it do? – Confused Oct 4 '16 at 15:37
  • The app (in this sense) is simple. It counts things. The user needs to tell the app when to count. And the tracking of counting is what is important to the app. – Nick Oct 5 '16 at 11:09
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For me, the idea of letting the user hit anywhere on the screen seems like the most user friendly option if they've got their hands full. You could restrict this to a main, central area if having the whole screen as the button doesn't make sense. This would allow for small 'cancel' or 'back' buttons if they were needed. The main thing would be to make it clear that they can hit anywhere. Maybe this could be done with a message that appears and then fades, as you describe above.

Have you considered other forms of input, such as a voice command? This would be more work to implement, but would allow for hands free operation.

  • I hadn't considered voice commands, but my assumption is that this wouldn't really be practical since the app supports a task that is often accomplished while multi-tasking (watching TV, sitting with a group talking, etc.) I'm going to go with centralized area (circle) with a notification that fades as described with a very fine and mostly transparent of the area that can be tapped. Once tapped, it will flash into view then fade quickly to provide user feedback. Thanks for your help. – Nick Oct 5 '16 at 11:08
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I would think that hitting anywhere on the screen would be the best solution, however I would accompany it with a vibration because it seems the user will be occupied. This would allow you to still have room on the screen to show whatever you have to show. What about other methods of user feedback? Such as double karate-chopping the phone, twisting, or shaking it.

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