Design for Mobile: What Gestures do People Use?

by Luke Wroblewski September 23, 2010

In his presentation on What gestures do people actually use? at Design for Mobile in Chicago IL, Dan Mauney walked through the results of his research into the gestures people attempt to use for common tasks. Here's my notes from his talk:

  • This 2009 study asked 40 people in 9 different countries to make over 28 actions for common goals in touch-based user interfaces. Total, the study collected over 9,500 gestures made by participants.
  • The tasks studied included: delete, scroll up, open menu, help, zoom in, etc.
  • The study analyzed: top gestures sorted by frequency, very infrequent gestures, cultural differences (did one country use a specific gestures more than others?), and differences between novices and experts.
  • Even though they were requested not to turn to menus to accomplish tasks, many people tried to.
  • The most common gesture for trying to “delete” was dragging it off the screen. The second most popular was swiping the object.
  • The most common gesture for trying to print was drawing a letter or tapping anywhere.
  • The most popular gesture for trying to multi-select was swiping objects. Second was tapping sequentially.
  • The most popular gesture for requesting help was tapping anywhere. Second most popular was drawing a question mark.
  • The most popular gesture for “cut” was swipe.
  • For scrolling, half the people swiped up and the second half scrolled down. This result was explained by the different experiences people had with scroll pad and stylus devices.
  • Most of the variability was not based on cultural difference. In China, people attempted more symbolic gestures than any other country.
  • The study didn’t find see a lot of variability between experts and novices –move and zoom had the biggest variability.
  • Back, Forward, Scroll Up, Scroll Down had largest pattern of difference. These were primarily experience-based differences. Few other differences found between novice and expert gestures.
  • When people could not identify an immediately obvious gesture –people wanted to tap to reveal a menu. Next guess was to draw a symbol from Windows icons or drawing a symbol.