The Sound of One Mouse Clicking…

Recently a human factors engineer from my team, Dr. Neil Ganey, led the usability research for a new mouse design. When Neil started working on the Laser Mouse, there was an idea in the usability team that the mouse should be silent. I actually liked the idea, but we decided that it warranted some testing. What follows is Neil's account of this endeavor: In our user testing sessions, we had a prototype of our mouse, our previous scroll wheel mouse, and two competitive mouse designs, one of which promoted “silent buttons.” When we analyzed the data, two very interesting findings came out. First, users did not like the feel of the switch that was used in the “silent” mouse. While this could itself be another topic altogether, it was one of the hazards that I had anticipated, since there is no clear detent when the mouse button is depressed. Second, and more interesting to me, was that users by and large did not like the fact that it was silent. This also came up in the after-task interviews. When asked to explain further, the users explained that they couldn’t tell when they had “clicked” the mouse button. When I asked whether they would prefer a model that was silent but felt like the regular mouse when they clicked the buttons, they responded that they would prefer a quieter sound to no sound at all. This led to a great deal of work focusing on the best tone and loudness of click sound. All in all, I think that the Laser Mouse does a very good job of finding a balance and being a good choice for users. ThinkPad users may notice that we pay special attention to this This second finding surprised me. I had thought that users would want a silent mouse if the feel of the mouse click were kept the same. Many users, it seems have become reliant on the auditory feedback that they get when they hear the button click. Sometimes people who work on design or usability want to make a system as simple as possible. While this is a solid goal, in general, any significant changes to the status quo should always be tested thoroughly before final implementation into the product. I guess it goes to show that sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone… including the sound of your mouse. You can find the Lenovo Laser Mouse here.

David Hill