Categories: Developers / Mobile Apps


Gestures are a fundamental part of the mobile app experience. And there are plenty of reasons why. Gestures are more intuitive than mouse-based “point and clicking”. They free up space on the screen and are simple to learn and use. So with the move towards flat, uncluttered design we’ve seen a huge uptick in the use of gestures. Done well, this isn’t a problem. But done poorly, it requires more user effort, involves a steep learning curve, and can be inconsistent with user expectations.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways we can keep our mobile app gestures stress free.

Keep your mobile app gestures rooted in the real world

Keep your mobile app gestures simple and familiar.

Keep your mobile app gestures simple and familiar.

We use manual gestures all the time in the physical world. For user-friendly UX, strive to incorporate gestures that reflect how we actually interact with things in the world. Gestures such as swipe, flick or pinch, for example, replicate common actions. Using these gestures is generally pretty safe, but venturing beyond the boundaries of standard gestures can leave users confused or stuck. Even the standard multi-touch gestures are a challenge for many users. So if for some reason you need to invent your own app gesture, keep it simple and intuitive. Prototype it and test it with your users to see if they respond how you’d expect.

Show your users what they need to

Some apps introduce users to gestures as part of their onboarding. This can be helpful, but it can also interrupt the flow of your app. Progressive disclosure is another way to introduce gestures on an as-needed basis. “Hinting”, on the other hand, is a more seamless way to approach this. Ridge cues, subtle arrows and even the clever use of light and shadow can help users see what kind of gesture needs to be used. Also key is providing users with immediate feedback. Your app needs to provide a visual response letting users know that their gesture has been successful. The “pull to refresh” animation is an example of this.

Using gestures as a tool for getting around

Don't make your users struggle with a learning curve.

Don’t make your users struggle with a learning curve.

We’re all used to scrolling up and down, but more apps are incorporating swiping gestures as a way to move through screens. Swiping left and right mimics turning the page in a book, an action we associate with moving forwards and backwards in a document or activity. Swiping can also be a more effective alternative for navigation tools such as the hamburger menu.

Not all audiences are fluent in gestures

Incorporating gestures into your mobile app comes with our usual refrain: design for your audience. Not all users are familiar with multi-touch gestures, so don’t incorporate functionality that will prevent them from easily using your app. Older users, for example, may have less physical mobility and less familiarity with gestures. Keep things simple for apps geared at these users. If you’re building a gaming app, on the other hand, complex gestures are likely to be second-nature to your users – who probably won’t be put off by a steep gestural learning curve.

Designing gestures for the new Apple X

All of the above comes with a caveat: the new Apple X. Devoid of a “home” button, the X will require users to tap or swipe at the bottom of the screen to go to the home screen or switch apps. These gestures may cancel out custom gesture designs in these areas, so plan ahead – and test rigorously. And while the screen of the X reaches to the very edge of the phone, it’s harder for users to use gestures at these edges or in the far corners. Design your interactions accordingly.



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Touchtap is a mobile development agency specializing in mobile development. Learn how to get mobile applications developed.

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