App developmentWeb design

Gestures in mobile apps

When was the last time you have used a gesture on your mobile phone? It was probably a few seconds ago, but you haven’t even realised it. Most of them are so intuitive that we don’t need to think about them at all.

Let us explain what those gestures are. Gestures are basically movements of fingers on touchscreens. For example when you want to zoom in a picture, you would probably just put two fingers on the screen and spread them.

There are many of them. The most used are simply tapping or double tapping, next we have dragging and pressing (tapping for an extended period of time). Than there is rotating, when you can use two fingers and simply rotate them the way you want your subject to rotate. Many app use much more of these gestures, above is just a brief insight into the most commonly known.

The key to success for implementing gestures into mobile apps is to test how the users react, so that you see if the gestures won’t make more harm after all.

Dan Mauney has come up with a very interesting study in 2009, where he was trying to find out what would people do, which gestures would they use, when they are given a specific task. The next goal was to determine if there is a difference between using gestures in different countries. However, this was denied, the differences between behaviours of various countries were too small to prove a point.

The outcome of this study was that the users were still turning to menus to complete the task, although they were asked not to. The largest difference between users’ reactions were for “back”, “forward”, “scroll up” and “scroll down”.

Since then a lot of time passed and touchscreens are now sensitive even on pressure. 3D gestures, as we call them, depend on how hard users push the screen.

The right use of gestures can save a lot of time (isn’t it something we all want?), as users can just omit opening a menu and searching for the desired option. They can just squash a lot of searching into one (or two) taps.

Another advantage is for both users and developers. Leaving out unnecessary icons and buttons saves space on the screen for other, more important parts of the content and users are not lost in so many options. The overall user experience is much better this way. Do you wonder what other factors might determine user experience? Click here.

Of course, just like everything else, gestures have their downsides. The biggest one is the absence of cohesive system. Some gestures might have various effects in various apps. This might be confusing for the users and sometimes even upsetting, so they could stop using the app.

It is (as always) crucial to make allowance for these when developing an app for both Android and iOS. Our developers in Pixelfield are well aware of this fact, so if you have an app in mind, or a mobile website, or anything else we could help you with, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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