by Morgan Strauss
In the world of interface design, “gestures” is a big buzzword these days. There is no doubt that gestures are a cool feature, and one that many consumers want for system control. Changing pages or scrolling through lists with the flick of a finger can give users a more intuitive, interactive experience, while contributing to the overall “wow” factor. But despite their appeal, the inclusion of gestures in an interface is not always appropriate, because they rely on memorization. Since there are no on-screen prompts, the user has to be familiar with the function of different gestures in order to use the interface. With users unfamiliar with the system, this can be a problem.
This is a very important consideration to keep in mind for commercial applications, where infrequent users are more common. Here, it is much better to rely on recognition through the use of button columns and labels, which are simple for anyone to recognize and use. Gestures should be reserved for residential applications, and even there, clues should be left to help out the end user. For example, scrolling lists should not be made to exactly fit the screen. Instead, they should cut off before the end of an entry to indicate there is something more to see. The iPhone® contact list is a perfect example of such a design.
So remember, the end goal of an interface is ease of use and intuitive operation. Before putting gestures in your design, evaluate the application first to see if your customer would be better served through memorization or recognition.
Morgan Strauss is the president of Guifx, an interface design studio specializing in touchscreen interfaces for home automation and embedded systems. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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