Does anyone REALLY understand Fitts’s Law

Published on Author Christopher FaheyLeave a comment

Most information architects are familiar with Fitts’s Law, which basically governs how to structure the size, position, and shape of links on a screen so that those links are easy for users to click on with their mouse.

Fitts’s law states:

“The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target.

If you thought that that sounded a lot like a mathematical formula, you win a prize:


Most information architects would express this rule by simply saying:

It’s harder for users to click links that are small and far away“.

So how many practicing, professional information architects have any idea how or why or when to use that formula? My guess is damn near zero.

The English version of Fitts’s law is an excellent design guideline for all practicing information architects to follow. But what about the formula? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the use of such formulas to measure or guide interface design is kind of silly.

But I’ll also say that it’s good that in academia there are people still doing that kind of research and theorizing, no matter how useless that research (currently) is in the professional/real world: Historically, practical ideas have quite often come out of open-ended experimentation and purely academic play.

Still, I bet someone could have come up with the equivalent of Fitts’s Law without resorting to Calculus!

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