Ergonomic Fingertip Grip gaming mouse design

, by
Dominik Schmalzried and Patrick Schmalzried

The majority of current gaming mice are made for Palm Grip first, Claw Grip second and sometimes Fingertip Grip third. It is unsurprising that these mice are not optimal for Fingertip Grip. The optimal Fingertip Grip mouse needs to be developed only for Fingertip Grip. The following are our thoughts on such a dedicated Fingertip Grip design.

Introduction to design for Fingertip Grip

Contemporary ergonomic Palm Grip mouse design is quickly explained: the more your whole hand fits onto the mouse, the better. This resulting mouse is terrible for Fingertip Grip: it is too long and too heavy. A large percentage of the motions you do with a Fingertip Grip mouse are intricate and subtle. These motions are, contrary to other gripping techniques, predominantly carried out by the fingers. Your fingers can do insanely precise movements but only when the thing they are moving is not hindering them either through its weight or shape. This is what the design for a Fingertip Grip gaming mouse can be reduced to: low weight and a shape that does not get in the way.

We already discussed the advantages of low weight in our article about the optimal weight for a gaming mouse. The gist of it being: your fingers are precision tools and not heavy lifters. By using a heavy mouse you are stifling your aim. See our article on the optimal weight of a gaming mouse for more on this.

With weight covered, this article is taking a look at the shape. How should a mouse look like, so that it does not get in the way of your fingers? An ergonomic design for a Fingertip Grip gaming mouse has to enable your fingers to perform a wide array of motions quickly and with great precision. And you have to be able to use it for long times without getting cramps. We have identified five areas a Fingertip Grip mouse has to get right:

  1. Mouse size (dimensions)
  2. Horizontal mouse shape (birds-eye view)
  3. Vertical mouse shape (frontal view)
  4. Mouse button shape
  5. Removal of nonessential features

Mouse size

The length, width as well as height of a mouse are all important. We will hence look at all three of them.

Length

Unique to Fingertip Grip is that you can move your mouse vertically by only using your fingers. Using fingers for vertical movements is not possible in Palm Grip or Claw Grip.

When you use your fingers to move your mouse vertically you achieve this by stretching or contracting your fingers, resulting in movements away from and towards your body. In order to not limit your vertical range when using Fingertip Grip the mouse has to be short. Very short, in fact. During vertical movements toward the body, there needs to be proficient space between the mouse and your palm. You should be able to contract the fingers on your Fingertip Grip mouse without the mouse touching your palm.

The other big advantage a short mouse offers is, of course, that it reduces the weight of the mouse.

The mouse cannot be too short though: you still have to be able to comfortably grip it. If the mouse is too short, your fingers will be under a lot of tension as they have to bent unnaturally.

Of course, for an even further range of motion there is always the option to move your arm back and forth. This is just not the first choice of vertical movement in Fingertip Grip.

To summarize the optimal length of a Fingertip Grip gaming mouse can be boiled down to: as short as possible to maximize vertical range of motion and minimize weight, but as long as necessary to offer a comfortable grip.

Width

This one is pretty straight forward: In order to avoid cramps a Fingertip Grip gaming mouse should neither be too narrow nor too wide. If a mouse is too narrow or too wide your fingers are under a lot of tension which is difficult to keep up for longer gaming sessions. A mouse that is too wide is bad because it unnecessarily adds weight.

Height

In order to comfortably grip a mouse, the height has to be right.

A few examples: if the mouse were not tall enough your fingers would have a hard time gripping your mouse which results in discomfort. Also your fingers can interfere with the mouse buttons or your mousepad when they do not have enough space. You do not want your gripping fingers to accidentally trigger button presses or scrape on your mousepad during movements.

If the mouse were too tall however, your wrist would tire more quickly from being constantly bent upwards. And as always: a mouse that is unnecessarily tall is also unnecessarily heavy.

Horizontal mouse shape

The horizontal shape is the birds-eye perspective of the mouse shape with the top being the part of the mouse where the mouse cable is located. When ignoring some of the crazier mouse shapes out there, like the inverted hourglass shape, three distinct groups of horizontal mouse shapes remain:

  1. \/
  2. ||
  3. /\

If we only take the clicking fingers and the gripping fingers into consideration, the /\-shape makes the most sense. Why? Since the clicking fingers (index and middle finger) are closer together than the gripping fingers (thumb, ring finger and pinky), the mouse would not need to be as wide in the front as compared to the back of the mouse.

However, what is decisive here is the vertical range of motion (moving the mouse in the y-axis). As previously mentioned, being able to use your fingers for moving the mouse vertically is unique to Fingertip Grip. Therefore, the \/-shape in which the mouse gets slightly wider toward the mouse cable allows for the best range of vertical motion as it resembles the way your fingers look when you stretch them out. Put another way: a mouse that is wider at the front gets in your way when you stretch out your fingers.

Therefore, a slight \/-shape will provide the best control and maneuverability.

Vertical mouse shape

The vertical mouse shape is the frontal view of the mouse. The vertical shape is defined by the way the side walls are oriented. Just as the horizontal shape, the vertical shape can be boiled down to three valid shapes:

  1. \/
  2. /\
  3. ||

The \/-shape is the easiest to pick up due to it being an undercut. However, a lightweight mouse is always super easy to pick up. It does not make sense to make a mouse that is already super easy to pick up that tiny bit more easy to pick up.

When performing vertical as well as horizontal motions /\-shaped side walls allow you to maintain your grip the longest. Additionally, in a \/-shape your pinky will be positioned uncomfortably below your ring finger. Since your pinky is the most outward finger on your hand it makes sense to position your pinky on a slightly more outward position relative to your ring finger.

The ||-shape suffers the same fate in the vertical shape as in the horizontal shape: it is neither one thing nor another. It is simply caught between two stools.

To summarize, when it comes to vertical mouse shape, a slight but also not too extreme /\-shape offers superior control and maneuverability with the furthest motion range.

Mouse button shape

Mouse buttons offer the most accurate and rich clicking sensation when you click them near their center. Therefore, an accurate finger placement is desirable. The shape of the mouse button can help with finger placement.

The shape of the mouse buttons can either be completely flat or curved in a convex or concave manner. A flat mouse button provides no feedback regarding the correct positioning of your fingers. This is bad because if you had this feedback you could adjust the positioning of your fingers accordingly.

A convexly curved mouse button does provide positional feedback but does not fit the shape of your fingertips. Therefore concave mouse buttons are optimal: they complement your fingertips and provide you with subtle feedback regarding your position on the mouse buttons.

Also the slope of the mouse buttons as a whole should not be too steep. Mouse buttons with a steep slope get in your way when you stretch out your fingers.

Removal of nonessential features

A mouse that is best for gaming should be designed only for gaming. A multipurpose mouse that is good for gaming and good for browsing the web is a compromise. It will not be great for either of those activities.

For example: Many people like to use the side buttons of their mouse for going backward or forward in their browser. That might be a convenient way to browse the web with just your mouse, but in a heated gaming session side buttons on a Fingertip Grip mouse are really bad: they limit the way you can grip your mouse. And you have to be careful to not accidentally click them. And they increase the weight as well. And for what? When you are playing a game you have a hand on your keyboard anyway. And, by definition, keyboards are full of keys. So what sense does it make to place additional keys on your mouse?

For these reasons a Fingertip Grip gaming mouse should have exactly two buttons. Two buttons is a good number because your index and middle finger are positioned on top of your mouse anyway, so they might as well be used to press buttons.

In fact, your index and middle finger should always hover over the left and right mouse buttons, ready to be triggered in an instant. The left and right click mouse buttons are inarguably the two most important buttons for the majority of games out there: primary and secondary fire in FPS and select and move commands in RTS. Therefore, your index and middle finger should always be in position to enable you to react to sudden changes, no exceptions. Any temptation to move your fingers off of that position is a distraction. More often than not distractions will be hugely detrimental to your performance, no matter how quickly you think you can move your fingers back into position.

For these reasons we think that mouse wheels are a distraction as well. Every time your index finger is on the wheel you cannot use it to fire your weapon or select a unit. It is hard to overstate how big of an disadvantage this is.

Closing remarks

A lot of factors play a role when it comes to designing a mouse just for Fingertip Grip. Some of these factors have a huge impact on how a mouse feels, like an extremely low weight. Some of these factors are very subtle, like the mouse button shape. Most importantly designing for Fingertip Grip means to not overload the mouse with nonessential features like side buttons or a wheel.

A mouse that is designed with all these factors in mind does not get in your way. You can aim to the full ability of your fingertips. Using such a mouse feels effortless.

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