UX Crash Course: Stupid Question 14 of 30

This question was asked by a real person on the LinkedIn UX forums a while ago, and it demonstrates a very common misunderstanding. So let’s answer:

“What is the best gesture?”


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When you design for mobile devices you have to think differently than when you design for desktop devices, and there are lots of different clicks and gestures to choose from.

Swipes, taps, pinches, twerking and so on.

The person asking the question in the forum had found a “study” that counted all the gestures in a bunch of apps, and declared one “the best”.

I’m not going to link to that study because it’s stupid.

Not interesting-stupid. Just stupid.


The stupid answer:

Personally I think the best gesture is the middle finger. It’s useful at so many times and places, and so many people deserve one.


The real answer:

The best gesture is the one that does the job most efficiently, with the least chance of errors.

(Again, this is why I like a good ‘ol middle finger.)

A tap-and-hold gesture can be a pain in the ass if you have to do it every 10 seconds. But it’s perfect for avoiding an accidental tap on the “delete all” button.

A tap is faster than a swipe, but a swipe can happen in different directions.

A tap is more specific than a swipe. Better for selecting text, worse for swipe-swipe-swiping through horny people on Tinder.

I could go on and on and on like this. It always depends on what you want the gesture to solve for the user.


Why this isn’t a stupid question:
Our brains look for meaning in patterns.

Maybe the study would have come up with a different ranking if they had chosen different apps to study.

Maybe some gestures are more well-known than others.

Maybe more people would use the middle finger if it didn’t turn into pixels on American television. I’ll work on that right after I cure cancer and internet banking.

When you count something, all you know is the quantity. You don’t know why there are more or less.


Humans copy each other. That doesn’t make an idea better. 

As designers, we tend to like any design that looks good, and that’s dangerous.

When hamburger menus first appeared, it allowed designers to make really beautiful mock-ups without all the annoying functional details.

On mobile devices, a hamburger menu saves valuable space.

On a desktop site hamburger menus hide the navigation even though there is plenty of room for it. A lot of users just never notice it. So they don’t navigate.

Hamburger menus: more beautiful, less usable.

But we can’t see usability, so guess what happened?

Designers everywhere copied that idea on real websites. Now the majority of their users will never see that clever page with the photo of their team, which shows that they’re an authentic company made of real people — because they chose the surface beauty of a hamburger menu over authentic user needs.

(Oh, burn!!!!)

Just because a lot of people do something, doesn’t mean it’s good.

Pause. Think. Solve. 


Tomorrow we will get into some of the nuts and bolts of structuring your design when we answer: “How many menu options is too many?”