The Bard of Robots

Android Isn't Left-Hand Friendly

While redesigning my app Goofy Glass, I came across this interesting finding.  Android isn’t left-hand friendly!  Now I’m not left-handed, so this has never been a problem for me.  But, I am colorblind so I can relate to the frustration of designs excluding a minority of us and essentially making it unusable for us.

So… What do I mean it isn’t left-handed friendly?

Being Friendly

1) Software home buttons stays right.

If you have a device with software buttons, try it.  You’ll notice, the software buttons always stay on the bottom or the right, depending if it in portrait or landscape.

This get particularly weird when using the Google Camera app.  That app does attempt to support left-handed use.  But this puts you weird position… you now are stuck using two hands in this orientation, where you would have been perfectly fine in the right-hand friendly version.

While it is nice to see Google does try to support it in some apps, the software buttons and the system in general do not.


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2) No easy way for develops to support it on their own. 

While Android as a whole does a marvelous job of designing for any device, they don’t make it easy to define a layout for landscape-left vs landscape-right. You can specify the based on size, density, language, and even orientation (portrait vs landscape)… but not which landscape version you are in.

This puts developers in a strange position of needing to handle all of the effort themselves.  Assuming of course that their apps really need to change based on handedness at all, which admittedly isn’t very common.  But then again, I’m not left-handed, I’d be curious to see what other frustrations those who are have run into while using Android.

Can It Be Done?

Of course it can!  Simply listen to the accelerometer and use that to determine your layout instead of using layout specific folders (as is traditional in Android). But be prepared for a lot more work in code, and a little bit more of a mess with your layouts.

This is exactly what I ended up doing with Goofy Glass.  Since I was essentially creating a camera app similar in some regards to the build in Android camera.  It tricky to do, but it was a bunch of extra effort, of course a lot of that effort was simply redesigning the layouts to look the way they should and making sure that all the lists were reversed in left-hand mode.

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Anyway, I just thought it was interesting and a little disappointing, but overall probably not even important for most apps… as I doubt very few need to be specifically designed with that in mind.

This project is maintained by bradgrimm