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enter image description here I have stumbled sometimes upon web pages with an ellipse-shape arrangement of menu items and I have found them to feel somehow more comfortable over the standard orthogonal arrangement:

Is there any research or even anecdotal evidence on the subject?

I am wondering if this could possibly have something to do with the way eye muscles work or with the human visual field.

  • do you have a screenshot example, or any info on the domain? Is it mostly consumer style marketing sites? – Mike M Feb 15 at 17:38
  • I can't quote the specific sites because it was long time ago when I saw them. I can't also remember their topic, all I remember is the difference in perceived comfort. – drabsv Feb 15 at 17:44
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This is far-fetched, but considering how our visual cortex works, there might be a link between the organization in an ellipse as you described and the way neurons in primary visual cortex process images.

One of the 1st step in visual processing are neurons that fire based on line orientation. Based on your examples, the ellipse would trigger 4 different oblique orientation, the orthogonal arrangement would trigger 2 orientation: horizontal and vertical. The ellipse introduces more complexity, but also facilitates differentiation of items based on their position.

It would make it easier to remember the position of a menu item in an ellipse. This is merely a hypothesis that needs to be tested.

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These are called Radial or Pie menus, and they've been around since the 1960's. In 2018, Don Hopkins published A 30 Year Retrospective of Pie Menus, which covers their history, theory, and adoption.

Pie menus and their variants have been researched fairly heavily, originally by Callahan et. al., and later by Hopkins and his team (which found them to be "about 15% faster and with a significantly lower error rate than linear menus"), and others such as Kurtenbach et. al, and Sanjay Trapathi. To quote the abstract of the Callahan study:

Pie menus gain over traditional linear menus by reducing target seek time, lowering error rates by fixing the distance factor and increasing the target size in Fitts's Law, minimizing the drift distance after target selection, and are, in general, subjectively equivalent to the linear style.

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