Advanced gestures and your users

Thoughts By 3 years ago

I was recently discussing advanced iOS gestures with another developer. They said that a lot of users probably don’t know about the swipe for more and delete options in the Mail app. I mentioned that the users don’t actually need to know about this.

I put features into two main categories. Those critical for people to use your app, and those that are helpful but not essentialy for your app to function.

Critical features

I noted above the cell swipe gesture in Mail. The options made available such as reply, forward and delete are pretty crucial for people to use. For inexperienced users, the swipe gesture is difficult to learn and remember. So isn’t this a problem hiding the features behind a swipe gesture?

You will notice that these features also exist at the bottom of the message when it’s opened. For a basic user, this is what would be used, rather than via the more advanced gesture. The tap gesture can be used to do all important actions, and for the power user there are faster alternatives if they wished to be learned.

Screenshot-2014.08.09-00.49.23  Screenshot-2014.08.09-00.50.35

Some other examples include going back a screen. You can tap up the top left on the back button, and power users can swipe from the left.


In Safari, to close a tab the user can choose between tapping the cross or swiping the tab to the left to get rid of it.


I recommend that if a feature is incredibly vital to your own app, then you make it as easy to use and don’t bury it behind advanced gestures. If you want an advanced gesture to allow faster access to a feature then that is fine, but also provide the simpler fallback to accommodate all your users. This is especially important for letting users use some of the accessibility tools to use your app, such as Voice Over for the vision impaired.

Obviously there are a few exceptions depending on your target audience.

Inessential features

Features that are not vital to your app are those that can go without ever needing to be used. They might be useful, but the app will still function perfectly if the features are never discovered.

For example, rearranging apps on the Springboard (app grid page) is something that never actually needs to be done. If a user doesn’t know about the long press gesture to start the icons wiggling, it doesn’t impact their experience too much, and they can use the apps in the order they were installed. This is something I notice a lot with my parents, and even though I’ve shown them how to reorder apps they just leave them in their existing order.