Do Left vs. Right Handed Mobile Apps Matter In Web Design?

With Firefox releasing left-handed mobile browsing on April 1st, many have been wondering if this is something that all browsers and apps should be implementing. Additionally, what effect will this have on the state of web design for mobile? Before getting into that, let’s consider whether it even matters if an app or browser is left or right-handed.

Should Web Designers Care If Sites Are Right Or Left-Handed?

The majority of people are right-handed, with only 10% of people in the world being left-handed. With such an evidently small number, it’s no wonder that most physical products as well as most web designs are created with no thought about whether it’s meant for right or left-handed people. Let’s be honest, most of us never have to think about whether products were made for our dominant hands or not; they generally are. But does it matter? Does operating a mobile app with your non-dominant hand make a difference? Also, how would a website’s design affect whether or not it’s easy to use left-handed? These are questions you can’t really answer unless you’re left-handed. What we can do as right-handers, however, is try to think about how it would feel to have to use our left hand for everything. Pretty annoying, right? Even something as simple as having to switch hands to close an app is an annoying extra step left-handed people have to add, as Bryan Liles, quoted on Mic, points out.

So Why Exactly Are Web Designers Creating Left-Handed Mobile Sites?

As can be seen above, always using your non-dominant hand can be annoying. Thus web designers for companies such as Firefox are choosing to create sites meant specifically for left-handed people because “certain areas are easier to tap than others, due to the reach of the user’s thumb”. Web designer depot also says when mobile phones are “held in the other hand, the available hit area is mirrored”, therefore becoming more accessible.

This may not seem like a big deal, being that most of us never have to worry about this issue, but imagine never being able to reach certain parts of your phone and always having to use the opposite hand, or even both hands. That would feel, in a word, extremely awkward. Doing it occasionally is fine, but every single time you use your phone would quickly become uncomfortable.

Although most of us don’t deal with this issue, it’s becoming increasingly more common for sites to implement the Left Handed Web (LHW) protocol “as an option in the browser preferences that enables users to set their browser to invert the horizontal rendering of the page so that elements that appear on the right move to the left, and vice versa”. That is to say, the LHW just mirrors the browser so it’s easy for left-handed people to reach everything with their thumbs.

How Does This Affect Web Design?

Unless more companies opt for the LHW protocol, this most likely won’t affect too many web designers. But this is the age of inclusivity and in an effort to end all types of discrimination, we may start seeing more and more options for left handed-people, in terms of mobile web design. Significantly, this article on Forbes points out that companies are “using technology to meet corporate diversity and inclusion commitments”, a conclusion the writer formed after hearing a story about a company, who’d asked consumers to film videos, that received a ton of upside-down videos because they didn’t consider how left-handed people have to hold their phones when using camera apps. After all, companies want to appeal to more people, so it’s just good business for their web designs to include left-handed functions. In fact, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before mobile web designers will have to include the option to switch between right and left alignment.



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