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Zoom buttons still exist in almost all desktop applications as well as applications on the web (SAAS). It seems like these buttons would be gone by now (with pinch and mouse scroll wheel) but they are not. Why do UX designers still keep these buttons around? Are there any good articles on this?

I found some UX stackoverflow posts on zoom buttons, but not one really stated whether or not they thought it would be safe (accepted by users or even noticed) if the zoom buttons no longer existed.

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I get your point of view: it feels like we are adding unnecessary complexity in the user interface. Plus, questioning why things are the way they are is generally a healthy and encouraged approach in UX.

However, regarding zoom buttons, they provide needed alternatives. Let's imagine various situations in which they might be needed.

  • The device cannot scroll

Maybe it's an old mouse and the scroll is broken, maybe it's an uncommon device for which scroll cannot be used for the moment.

  • The user cannot use the scroll

Often, one's is to experience frustration when browsing with a mobile on a page with a map and some content just underneath it. If only they thought about another way of zooming in/out in this particular case? Zoom buttons makes it easier to implement. You may say, it's a technical problem, but let's imagine someone with a broken thumb and he just cannot pinch in or out, but would easily use zoom buttons.

  • Scroll is not effective for a given task

Maybe the map is going to be used for certain tasks that require a special zoom level. Using zoom buttons can be a more reassuring option as they have fixed zoom levels.

My point is, it's hard to imagine all the situations in which an alternative might become useful. It's probably best to not test these assumptions and keep a convenient alternative interaction for zooming - which is already known by users.


Just a side note, it reminds me of the Curb cuts problem and how helping wheelchairs getting off and on sidewalks actually helps all people using wheels.

  • Great response. Thanks so much for the insight. The curb cut post was a good example as well. It's a bit easier to now see why designers decide to keep the zoom buttons around. Going into the reasoning behind the zoom buttons also helps determine which type of button control is best suited. Thanks again – Fractal Aug 17 '18 at 19:02

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