What would you call the surface of contact which can activate an element when it passes over it. For example, the area that's covered is different whether you use a stylus, a finger or a mouse.

In short, please replace the ? in this sentence:

The currently dragged element is integrated to the ?.

  • Are you looking for a name that explains that the interface will differ with different input devices? – TJH Sep 5 '12 at 7:47
  • @THJ no I am not. I can't explain it better: the surface of potential instantiable interaction. – Knu Sep 5 '12 at 8:48
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    Oh I see, you mean the amount of active area differs between a fingerprint, a stylus end and a cursor point? – TJH Sep 5 '12 at 9:03
  • @TJH that's what I meant in my second sentence, yes. – Knu Sep 6 '12 at 22:17
  • a "panel", "active panel" or "touch area"..? – Ades Sep 13 '12 at 9:03

Microsoft has referred to this as both the "contact area" and the "touch area" in their reference material for Touch Hit Testing (which sounds remarkably like what you're trying to describe anyway). Their TouchPoint API actually has a property called Size which they describe as "the rectangular area that is reported as the touch-point contact area" (emphasis mine). Apple uses the ungainly term "contact patch" for this in their iOS documentation.

As a side note, very few technologies provide an actual technical representation of the contact area of the input device (really only optical touch, as used in the Microsoft PixelSense—née Surface, can do it at all accurately), which means generally the software presents touch points as simply X/Y coordinates of roughly the centre of the contact surface.

That makes it impossible (generally) to allow things like "if the input device is broad and spans over two or more controls, err on the side of the control closer to the top of the display".

  • That's an interesting point. I can't really upvote since that doesn't answer my question. Ill explain my problem then: when you drag an element I want its surface to be integrated to the ? (? being the word(s) I am looking for). – Knu Sep 6 '12 at 22:19
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    Why not phrase it simply as "when being dragged, elements should remain underneath the input device"? – Kit Grose Sep 6 '12 at 22:27
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    You didn't understand what I said. I mean that if you drag with your mouse an element and you have a target where it is supposed to land on, I don't want that target to react when the pointer is over it: I want it to react the moment the dragged element touches it. – Knu Sep 6 '12 at 22:52
  • Oh, that makes more sense. It also sounds like you've just phrased it in a way that explicitly doesn't relate to the contact area of the input device/pointer. Talking in terms of the dragged element and the drag target seems to be both unequivocal and less prone to technical implementation issues. – Kit Grose Sep 7 '12 at 0:18
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    @Knu: what about "the drop target can be considered active when any part of the combined boundary of the dragged element and the physical contact area of the input device (e.g. the fingertip) touches it"? Wordy, I know, but I think you're better off giving an example and steering clear of jargon if you're struggling to find the exact term anyway. – Kit Grose Sep 18 '12 at 1:15

I'd use "Contact zone". For instance: "If the contact zone includes the border of control, the control should still react to user's manipulations".


Contact area?

"For example, many touch devices measure the touch contact area using an internal device-specific scale, such as the total number of sensor nodes that were triggered by the touch. This raw size value would not be meaningful applications because they would need to know about the physical size and other characteristics of the touch device sensor nodes." http://source.android.com/tech/input/touch-devices.html


According to context "touch point" or "pointer" is my first thought.

  • +1 sounds resonable for all three mentioned interaction elements – FrankL Sep 12 '12 at 8:51

The currently dragged element is added to the target area, in this case a contact. When you move items to add (copy or move) them to another position, I’d use a more general expression like target area. It’s the same action when you move files around in a file system, even though representation differs. The appearance of the drag-and-drop action may differ when you use different tools to move items around, but the target area is the same.

When designing it’s always best to separate content, behavior and presentation from each other. In this case you should deal with the action (behavior) first, and presentation later on. When your behavior is set (what should happen on an action) then take care of presentation, for the different tools used.

Presentation, content and behavior

  • As I explained here, this logic won't work if the dragged object surface is smaller than—for example–the fingerprint. The term(s) need(s) to cover this duality. – Knu Sep 11 '12 at 14:21
  • @Knu is it the action, the target or the presentation you want to have named? – Benny Skogberg Sep 11 '12 at 16:39
  • Neither, it represents 2 planes at once: the input device and an element in the UI. – Knu Sep 18 '12 at 12:37

If I understand the question correctly, in Flash this it's called 'hit area'. Usually it's used when referring to buttons. In Flash you can make buttons that react to another area than their visible surface. The area of interaction is called hit area.

  • You didn't understand the question (like the user who deleted his answer). I am talking about the input's potential contact area (not the target's). – Knu Sep 11 '12 at 8:58
  • then I'd vote for contact zone. – kslstn Sep 11 '12 at 9:04

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