Touch gestures

One of the coolest, native mobile user interface gestures ever created in my mind is the “pull to down to refresh” feature. It was introduced by Loren Brichter who created Tweetie (a popular Twitter client that was acquired by Twitter several years back).

That pull down to refresh was decidedly mobile only. It doesn’t work with a mouse and keyboard.

It’s so simple and so elegant. It has become the defector gesture in an ever growing number of mobile apps. Obviously it’s in the Twitter app, it’s now in Facebook for iOS, Foursquare, Apple Mail in iOS 6, and plenty of others. It’s the right gesture for a natural mobile experience. I’m happy to see it gain in popularity over the last few years. 

Yet we do see desktop UI in some of the most popular mobile apps. The biggest offender is the “junk drawer” button. Facebook uses it in their app. 

That junk drawer button feels like a cop out. 

The folks at Instagram invented a new native touch gesture. Liking a photo by double tapping the actual photo itself. 

Previously, on the desktop web, liking a photo or some other thing, meant moving your mouse to a small (like, heart, fav) button and then clicking it. 

The Instagram guys ditched the requirement for a little button click and replaced it with a big touch friendly gesture. Two taps and bam, a heart pops up and you’re done. Very satisfying. 

I suspect we will see more developers add this “like” touch gesture to their apps. 

Other interfaces are being replaced by touch gestures. For example in most apps today that allow users to create content there is a “new post” button. Click the button and add more content. But that feels like an exported desktop gesture. 

One of my favorite mobile apps is called Clear. It’s a to do list app for the iPhone. They don’t have a “new task” button. You simply pull the page and a new to do appears. Want to see all you lists? Pinch the screen. There is no junk drawer button anywhere. They have a video on their website that shows the app in action.

It’s stunning. 

Prismatic is another example of an app breaking new ground. Prismatic is a mobile personalized news app. They have created some new cool touch gestures. For example, when I want to tweet or email an article I read, i simply long tap the article and I get a few sharing options. I’m not sure if the long tap is the best way to do it for most users but i give them a lot of credit for trying out a new touch gesture. 

Tumblr’s iPhone app has a cool touch gesture. Instead of tapping the new post button to add a photo, you can just swipe the compose button up and it automatically goes into camera mode. It’s so freaking fast and super cool. 

I encourage all developers to think about the touch gestures and leave the desktop web behind.