Gesture Driven UI Control Mobile App Design Principles


Rajiv Patil

Do you remember the way you used to interact with web interfaces just a decade ago? Yes, we all used to depend too much on mouse clicks and hovering over the target links as the obvious ways of interactions in those times. Then came an era with the subsequent releases of Apple's iPhone devices that allowed us an array of gestures to interact with apps and web interfaces over the device screen. We started to use pinch, zoom, spread and swipe to interact with on-page elements that include both the contents and links.

With the advent of these gestures, the so-called mouse clicks or finger taps were replaced by an array of interactive actions on the mobile device screen. With the gestures becoming clicks, the mobile apps and web interfaces today face the challenge of incorporating gesture-based user experience more than ever. Since the ease of gesture-based interaction determines the user experience of an app or interface to a great extent, the developers and designers have the creative challenge of gesture integration.

1. The power of gesture-based interaction for user experience

It is important to know the way gestures in a mobile app interface adds value to the overall user experience. First and foremost thing about the role of gesture in a UI is that it helps it become intuitive and more intelligent. There are countless apps that in recent times have become intuitively brilliant and engaging thanks to gesture interface. In many cases, the gestures helped to make the navigation and transition from one in-app feature to another quite effortless.

2. Removing the clutter from the UI

The best thing about the gesture driven interface is that it helps to remove the clutter while allowing the user more focus on the app content. Thanks to gesture-based interface the main screen of an app can be used only as a viewport to access the content. Thanks to gesture driven navigation, all the menu buttons, and navigation features are not required to be displayed on the screen. Based on the nature of your interface you can hide the menu behind, above or below and show it contextually when required.

As of this intuitive gesture based menu, we can call to mind the Facebook and Gmail app on iPhone or iPad which allows “side-swiping” to see the menu. This typical contextually side swapping menu has become a trending UI element for quite some time and has become particularly popular due to extreme ease of use. The best thing about such menu is that it allows optimum focus on the content and also allows navigating to any part of the app with minimum interaction, mostly two or three touches. Some apps allow more creative input to make actions more effortless. For example, Instagram allows liking any post with just a simple double tap.

3. Gestures for functions

Why gestures work so seamlessly ensuring easy interaction? It is principal because gesture interactions are natural and intuitive for the users. There are many ways certain gestures are intertwined in our everyday life. For example, when taking a garment from the wardrobe we often just need to grab it without really needing to see it. So, for certain things, our sense of location just works intuitively from within.

With gestures powering your user experience, you do not need to click on any on-page element to see it intently or from close. Just by zooming with your fingers spreading on the respective image, you can see the delicate fabrics vividly including the stitch marks. Gestures, pinches, swipes and pulls all deliver natural human interaction with on-page elements and allow you are using gestures to the greatest advantage of interacting with contents on the device screen. A similar gesture based interaction is the pull-to-refresh that allows you are quickly refreshing the page without clicking on the refresh button.

4. Size of the gesture targets is equally important

While most mobile app development services company will have the natural inclination to use finger taps or thumb based scrolling instead of mouse clicks, such gestures can suffer from inaccuracy since the gesture targets either can be too large or too small for the finger tap. Apart from the button size the spacing of the buttons and the negative space around each button is also important. There are few effective principles regarding gesture target design, size, and spacing that are important.

  • First of all, the gesture target whether it is a CTA button or a clickable link should be larger enough for easy finger tap.
  • Secondly, there should be enough space between two buttons to ensure ease of finger taps.
  • Thirdly, most of the tap buttons and links should be placed above the fold as below the fold buttons are less clicked or tapped.
  • As the majority of young users these days hold the device single-handedly while navigating with their thumb, you need to ensure a thumb friendly navigation allowing them scrolling or reaching any relevant button and navigation elements with thumb gestures.

5. Ensuring a great onboarding experience

Finally, your mobile app needs to educate your users well to help them learn using the app with gesture inputs. This is why for new users it is extremely important to offer a solid onboarding experience that can provide them with a clear idea of navigating with gesture based inputs. You can consider some useful and time-tested measures in this respect.

  • You can offer them a layer of a tutorial with visual guidance about where to tap or use gestures for which type of action.
  • You can also educate your users with prompts loaded with commands in plain text. Every gesture interaction for the app can be described within this prompt.
  • Hint motion or visual hint is a nice way to tell your users about the kind of gesture actions they can take for various purposes.
  • Content teases is another way to offer hints to users about gesture interactions. Content teases give hints of background contents.

It’s a wrap, guys!

So, gesture based UI has robust possibilities to boost user experience, right? Well, while possibilities and potential of gesture UI seem limitless, the seamless integration with the app ui/ux design will prove to be decisive.

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