Untangling the usability of fisheye menus

Kasper Hornbæk, Morten Hertzum

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Fisheye menus have become a prominent example of fisheye interfaces, yet they contain several non-fisheye elements and have not been systematically evaluated. This study investigates whether fisheye menus are useful, and tries to untangle the impact on usability of the following properties of fisheye menus: the use of distortion, the index of letters for coarse navigation, and the focus-lock mode for accurate movement. Twelve participants took part in an experiment comparing fisheye menus with three alternative menu designs across known-item and browsing tasks as well as across alphabetical and categorical menu structures. The results show that for finding known items, conventional hierarchical menus are the most accurate and by far the fastest. In addition, participants rate the hierarchical menu more satisfying than the fisheye and multi-focus menus, but do not consistently prefer any one menu. For browsing tasks the menus differ with respect to neither accuracy nor selection time. Eye-movement data show that participants make little use of the non-focus regions of the fisheye menu, though they are a defining feature of fisheye interfaces. The non-focus regions are used more with the multi-focus menu, which enlarges important menu items in these regions. With the hierarchical menu, participants make shorter fixations and have shorter scanpaths, suggesting lower requirements for mental activity and visual search. We conclude by discussing why fisheye menus were inferior to the hierarchical menu and how both may be improved.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalACM Transactions on Computer Human Interaction
    Issue number2
    Number of pages32
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

    Bibliographical note

    Article 6


    • Fisheye menus
    • hierarchical menus
    • menu selection
    • focus+context interfaces
    • information visualization

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