Left-Handed Design

Based on the overwhelming positive feedback, starting next week expect video tutorials to be a regular part of the newsletter. I re-uploaded the tutorial on creating photo slideshows because the audio in the first version was a little tinny. I’m still perfecting the formula for optimizing file size vs. quality, in an effort to make the files accessible to as many users as possible. And the next batch of tutorials are scripted, so you won’t have to suffer through the ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ associated with my winging the audio track for this first demo. If you missed the tutorial the first time around, it’s still located in the online archive.

As I was writing my comparison of the 20GB versions of the Dell DJ, iPod, and Rio Karma, I noticed something; I’m left-handed. Okay, so I already knew I was left-handed, but more importantly, I’m noticing most electronic devices aren’t designed to be used by me. Holding the Dell DJ in my left hand, I accidentally powered the device off more than once because the power button is in the exact spot where my thumb is most comfortable. Moving my thumb elsewhere on the Dell DJ results in inadvertent pressing of volume buttons. The only solution for this is to switch hands.

The Karma is better. The power button is on the top, remaining out of the way for either hand. It is also designed with right-handed use in mind. The thumb control is most definitely positioned for optimal comfort when holding the device in your right hand (as the contoured right side of the device indicates). I can comfortably navigate the Karma menus with either hand, but the design definitely favors right-handed use.

Apple’s iPod design is definitely primary hand agnostic. By placing the scroll wheel in the lower center of the device, with button controls just above the wheel, it doesn’t matter which hand you use to control the iPod. There are plenty of reasons I will still favor my Karma, but iPod is certainly the clear leader in non-discriminatory design.

Portable music players aren’t the only place I’m finding handedness to be an issue. My latest cell phone, an LG VX6000 also places buttons inconveniently in the path of my left hand. I find this to be much more inconvenient than any of the portable device designs, because the phone is constantly adjusting volume if I hold it up to my left ear with my left hand. I don’t remember this being a problem on previous phones, or I probably would have been more careful in making a selection this time.

Are left-handed people an unrecognized minority in device design, or am I just a whiner who needs to suck it up and deal with a right-handed world? You decide.


  1. Jake, you’re not a whiner, I to am left handed. It is almost impossible to find a left handed mouse……..been using a trackball for years instead now. I also use a wave keyboard, and I like it more than conventional keyborads since the majority of long-finger stretches are done with my right hand.
    I used to follow you when you were with Chris Pirillo. I am happy to say that you are more informative on your own. Keep up the good work.

  2. nope, you most certainly are not a complainer. i, too, am a lefty, although not a complete lefty. i am somewhat ambidextrous; anytime i do something new, i pick it up in both hands, one at a time, and balance the item or whatever. whichever hand it feels better in is the hand that winds up with it, or performing the task, or whatever. i have found that the majority of the world is most definitely geared toward righties. it’s almost funny to hear them whine when they come across something that is lefthanded; they seem to have a harder time dealing with it than we do. i guess it’s from so many years of having to “make do”, as it were. i use a trackball and a split keyboard, as they are easier on my hands and shoulders (CTS and TOS.) my husband is a rightie, and he also finds them easier to deal with. he recently had to go to the local library, as our ‘puter was down, and came home, complaining about the regular keyboard and standard mouse. keep on witching at the designers and makers of products, and do so loudly; who knows? maybe one day you’ll be listened to! keep up the great work.

  3. I’m with you on this…it does seem like some device manufacturers forget that there are left-handed people out there. The volume buttons on my phone are on the “wrong” side for me, it’s awkward to power on/off my PPC one-handed, the list goes on…

  4. i too am left handed. imagine being the only one in your family that is. i’ve learned to cope with using my right hand for cutting with scissors and other things that are primairly for right handed people ……. your not alone

  5. I wish that instructions, written and help desk people, would stop telling people to “right click”. Both my husband and I are left-mousers and we have adopted the phrase “opposite click”.

  6. I have a seven year old son that is left handed. He is the only family member that is left handed. The computer mouse is difficult for him and we only have 1 computer in the house. Is there a way to put 2 mice on the computer? One on the left and one on the right to accomodate the needs of a lefty in the family. BTW, how do right handed parents teach a left handed child to tie shoes. That task is harder than potty training.

  7. Left Handed.
    You are right we are prejudiced against because we are left handed.
    The positive side is that we adapt more easily than right-handed people because we have to.
    When using an implement that requires one hand, like a spoon, I am left-handed. When I need to use both hands, like golf (was going to use cricket, but where would I start?), I tend to go right-handed.
    Ironically being a support tech, I tend to use either hand for mouse use as I tend to use whichever way the user uses it. My right-handed tech colleagues have to move the mouse to the other side of the keyboard when helping left handed people. Thats very entertaining.

  8. No, you are definitely not a whiner. The world is definitely RIGHT handed. Have you noticed that if a building has double swinging doors and they decide to lock one, it is always the LEFT one? I have noticed that lefties seem to be more ambidextrous than right handed people. I feel that is because we must learn to cope with the right-handed world from early childhood. (Or maybe it’s just our greater inherent intelligence!) 😎

  9. After living 80some years in this right handed world,and have tried my hand at sports,art,soldiering,music,and a sundry of other projects, I find my brain has become ambidextrous!

  10. I too am left handed and find EVERYTHING biased toward “the right”! On my PPC device, anything that autorotates the screen, places my hand over all the buttons (most awkard!). I use a graphics tablet for most of my mousing (left handed) and find using the pen to be far easier than a “right-handed” mouse!

  11. I’ve had enough of right handed mice! microsfts are not bad and I noticed alot of there new types are more ambidextrous in design. I would definately like to see a keyboard with the arrow keys on the left.

  12. Dear Mr. Jake,
    I,m An a/c mechanic by trade so if youve ever spent a lot of time turning screws you know that you can become ambidextrous sadly enough I’m also dominintly righthanded. I have a sister who is left handed and discovered that she too can sign her name right handed and me the opposite…

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