Fundamentals of Designing User Interaction - General Interaction Techniques


One of the most common ways of identifying or accessing an object is by navigating to it. The following sections include information about mouse and keyboard techniques.

Mouse Navigation

Navigation with the mouse is simple; when a user moves the mouse left or right, the pointer moves in the corresponding direction on the screen. As the mouse moves away from or toward the user, the pointer moves up or down. By moving the mouse, the user can move the pointer to any location on the screen.

Keyboard Navigation

Keyboard navigation requires a user to press specific keys and key combinations to move the input focus — the indication of where the input is being directed — to a particular location. The appearance of the input focus varies by context; in text, it appears as a text cursor or insertion point. In most other contexts, it is represented by a dotted rectangle. You should display the input focus location in any active window.

Cross referenceMore Information

For more information about displaying the input focus, see Chapter 14, "Visual Design."

Basic Navigation Keys

The navigation keys are the four arrow keys and the HOME, END, PAGE UP, PAGE DOWN, and TAB keys. Pressed in combination with the CTRL key, a navigation key increases the movement increment. For example, where pressing RIGHT ARROW moves right one character in a text field, pressing CTRL+RIGHT ARROW moves right one word in the text field. The following table lists the common navigation keys and their functions. You can define additional keys for navigation.

Basic Navigation Keys
Press this key To move the cursor Press CTRL+this key to move the cursor
LEFT ARROW Left one unit Left one (larger) unit
RIGHT ARROW Right one unit Right one (larger) unit
UP ARROW Up one unit or line Up one (larger) unit
DOWN ARROW Down one unit or line Down one (larger) unit
HOME Beginning of line Beginning of data or file (top-most position)
END End of line End of data or file (bottom-most position)
PAGE UP Up one screen (previous screen, same position) Left one screen (or previous unit, if left is not meaningful)
PAGE DOWN Down one screen (next screen, same position) Right one screen (or next unit, if right is not meaningful)
TAB Next field (SHIFT+TAB moves in reverse order) Next larger field

Unlike mouse navigation, keyboard navigation typically affects existing selections. Optionally, you can support the scroll lock key to enable scrolling navigation without affecting existing selections. If you do so, the keys scroll the appropriate increment.

Cross referenceMore information

For more information about keyboard navigation in secondary windows, such as dialog boxes, see Chapter 9, "Secondary Windows."

Other Forms of Navigation

Navigation can also be supported with specific commands or interface elements. For example, viewing operations can sometimes be considered a form of navigation. Opening a document, clicking a link, or switching windows are forms of moving from one context to another.