Radial Menus on Handheld Devices

Over at UI and Us1, Keith Lang has found a movie of a mobile device with a neat radial menu:

While I like radial menus on mouse-driven systems, I'm not yet convinced that they are a good idea on small touchscreen handheld computers.

This particular menu seems to move the individual menu items slightly while you browse through them. As Keith points out, this may make it harder or even impossible for users to remember the spatial position of the individual menu items.

This menu also requires users to reach individual features of the device using a single, continuous, complex gesture, thus making errors both more likely and more expensive. Users have to do more to recover if they lift their finger by accident, or hit the wrong menu item. On other devices, individual features are accessed using a sequence of simple gestures, which makes it easier to recover from a mistake. For example, if you hit the wrong artist while browsing through your music on an iPod touch, you can easily recover from that mistake by going back one level and trying again; you don't immediately fall back into the iPod's main menu.

But it's certainly an interesting approach, and also quite pretty.

  1. Which, by the way, has received a beautiful redesign. ↩︎

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