It’s look and feel, right? Try this: move your mouse cursor to any part of the white background of this page, and click. Feel that?
What you just experienced is precisely the same tactile feedback you get when you click on buttons and hyperlinks… a reedy, mechanical click from your mouse that indicates you’ve pressed the mouse button, and another that signals release. This tactile feedback is the same whether you’ve moused over the button surface, or missed it, or clicked the button before the code behind the page had fully loaded. The result? Nothing. A false positive. I’ve recorded false positives like these in usability studies for a while now, and find that they account for anywhere from 20% to 40% of clicks overall–more, with less experienced computer users.
The problem is fundamental: tactile feedback is provided by a device that is unaware of other events in the system, and the feedback it offers is the same, regardless of the outcome [success or failure] of those events. Some effort has been made to provide additional auditory feedback to coincide with mouse-clicks, but these, too, are driven by the mouse itself, and not by the interaction of the mouse with the rest of the system. To avoid this trap, we need to build a better mouse. [Sorry… couldn’t help it.]
To really move forward, though, we need to consider a method of mousing that provides more than binary tactile feedback… we need to look at haptics. Haptic perception describes how we use our sense of touch to experience the objects that surround us… the shapes and textures that define our sense of place. A haptic mouse could not only provide accurate click feedback, it could trace the contours of the button. Bump against the edge of the on-screen window. Provide a grooved trail though a cascade of menus.
Happily enough, just such a rodent is currently on the market. The iFeel mouse from Logitech uses force feedback technology pioneered [and patented] by Immersion. While the current model has recieved mixed reviews, it may signal the the future of on-screen navigation… an experience that is more accurate, and more meaningful.