I am a programmer, UX designer, and love the semi-structured approach the touch bar has offered to user interfaces, especially when contrasted to the "anything goes, your finger is a mouse" design feel that occurs on the MSFT surface.

I'm looking for any professional research that would confirm (or dispute) my current observations:

  • I use the mouse less often (shortcuts are in the touch bar, and a tap or swipe is better than remembering shortcut keys, or endless menus. )

  • I discover features I didn't know were possible (Apple remote desktop has easy controls for switching between monitors)

  • To the common consumer, F1 through F12 doesn't have a consistent meaning. The touch bar allows for intuitive usage.

Although I subjectively like no longer having fingerprints on my LCD screen (compared to the Surface), I would like to have a bit more data to base my gut feeling on.


  1. Does any UX research exist with the Touchbar that supports or disputes the above claims?
  • I don't miss the F1-12 buttons, I do not discover new features and I barely use the touch bar. Also, It's not intuitive at all, because I have to look at it, to change volume.
    – Rvervuurt
    Apr 27, 2017 at 15:32
  • I'm not aware of one but I see the feature as extending the original idea of programmable keys introduced with many aftermarket keyboards, which seems to have been useful enough to stick around. In general, lower hand movement distance is better from an ergonomic standpoint (case in point here being compact keyboards w/o the 10-key) so this should be a long term win as it allows the user to do more without involving the mouse.
    – dekaliber
    May 11, 2017 at 18:58
  • @Rvervuurt "looking" doesn't negate intuitiveness, though.
    – DA01
    May 18, 2017 at 19:40

2 Answers 2


You don't need a specific one about the touch bar, I think. If you can find something about tablet keyboards you're well on your way.

The biggest tradeoff is flexibility vs touch-sense. The great thing about touchscreens they can show whatever you want. QWERTY, AZERTY, Dvorak, Hirigana; no problem. The downside is you don't know where exactly you're pressing. When I press in the middle between several buttons on a keyboard I know I missed my mark. Touchscreens can vibrate but that's not detailed enough information, it only lets you know you touched something, not quite what.

Here are some known pros and cons, but I don't have quantified differences at hand.

Pros of touchscreen:

-can be adapted to different languages/layouts

-can show icons to help introduce/recognize features.

-allows for non-button interaction such as sliders

-can show extra information such as current volume level on the volume button.

Pros of regular buttons:

-consistent layout between programs (i.e. KB-buttons won't change size, onscreen buttons can)

-better feedback about where you pressed

-no effects like battery, sun glare, OLED degradation.

These are about the technologies, and not the implementation of the touchbar - look at youtube reviews for what people think of current button layouts etc. because there won't be much/anything in actual research about that yet.

Just as a sidenote, anytime you love something - look for the downsides. You've only listed positives about the bar, and it's not such a black&white improvement. It's a pretty good tradeoff, but it's still a tradeoff.


Since the touch bar, really is a 1986 MSX F1-F10 button row hardwarizedenter image description here Any 1986 MSX Basic usability study might be applicable. Apple was quick and brave to get rid of the floppy and the 3.5 mm jack but seems it had not enough pizzazz to get rid of the legacy F-buttons. Before, the F buttons where an integral part of the application like the MSX Basic. Now they have been hijacked to use by the OSX (volume control, screen brightness). With the bar, seems apple wants to give the F buttons back to the developers. I think it is too late.

  • 1
    While a fine opinion, I'm not sure how this answers the question.
    – DA01
    May 18, 2017 at 19:38
  • 1
    yes, what it means is that since the bar is just a a "fancy" separate screen rehash of the old age function keys, 1996 function key usability analisys might apply... here is a pointer: books.google.ae/… May 19, 2017 at 21:05

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