Why Brands Should Design For The 10%

We are the 10%. The people with ink covered hands struggling to use a pair of right-handed scissor and literally bumping elbows with you at the dinner table. Most products are created with one handedness in mind. To a certain extent I sympathize with companies that build products catering to right-handers. It’s clearly more cost effective to make left-handers just deal with it. Sadly, this way of thinking seems to have carried over to the digital realm. Specifically the software that drives our smartphones. Devices we spend an average of 3 hours a day on.

I routinely find myself coming just short of dislocating my thumb trying to hit a back button or being forced to use both hands to access a quick-menu. This kind of design is just flat out lazy. Even though left-handers make up the minority of any given product’s user base, by considering them you’re actually making a smarter product. Design is essentially creative problem-solving and when you are forced to think about how all users interact with a product, you are able to come up with solutions, in both form and function, that improve the entire user experience. And that can create an incredible brand experience. Below are some examples of brands getting it right.

Apple, the king of brand experience, just released the long-awaited Apple Watch. Watches are wrist agnostic. When I saw the Digital Crown’s placement on the Watch I thought, this product won’t even be usable by me. I was wrong. Apple made it easy for left-handers to put it on their dominant wrist, select a left-handed setting and be on their way.

Another tech giant, Samsung, announced a cutting-edge phone with a curved screen called the Galaxy Note Edge. While the design is certainly groundbreaking, the convenient features of the sloped edge are lost to a left-handed users thumb. Similar to Apple’s Watch, a user can flip the screen, and the phone itself, to use the Edge in left-handed mode. This causes some other issues with the back and home hardware buttons but it at least shows some forethought. When Samsung released the Galaxy S6 Edge they remedied this issue completely by curving both sides of the phone.

Many app developers are using fluid concepts in their designs which allow users to customize their experience so that the product behaves best for how they use it.

Facebook’s Messenger app uses “chat heads” that are anchored to the outer edges of the screen and can be moved to the left or right side for easy access to either thumb. Path, the social networking app, uses a flyout navigation that works the same for lefties and righties. Virtual keyboard juggernaut, Swiftkey, recently added a feature for larger screened devices that splits the keyboard and lets you reposition each piece in a place that is most comfortable for you.

The next time you are designing a product or service, ask yourself how a lefty would do it. The problems you solve might benefit everyone and make an exceptional brand impression.