Let’s say you’re designing some way to send video from one device to another device (for example, from your phone to your TV), and you think «ah ha! instead of pressing a boring button, what if we made it so you could just flick the video off your phone’s screen up to the tv?»

I admit, it sounds neat at first. But it’s classic jetpack design, putting «wow» before «it just works». In real world usage, the interaction falls apart.


You could remove the gesture, leaving you with a button. A single, understandable, discoverable, button that can work for multiple outputs. It’s not sexy and new, but it works. And we need more «it just works» design in the world.

Lots of designers seem reluctant to rely on buttons when designing user interfaces for touchscreens, opting to go with more unusual interactions instead. Sure, gestures are sexy. They’re also easy, allowing you to remove clutter from your user interface.

But buttons are discoverable. They can have labels that describe what they do. Everybody knows how to use them. They just work. It’s why we use them to turn on the lights, instead of installing Clappers everywhere.


Christopher Phin responds.

If you require a short url to link to this article, please use http://ignco.de/468


If you liked this, you'll love my book. It's called Designed for Use: Create Usable Interfaces for Applications and the Web. In it, I cover the whole design process, from user research and sketching to usability tests and A/B testing. But I don't just explain techniques, I also talk about concepts like discoverability, when and how to use animations, what we can learn from video games, and much more.

You can find out more about it (and order it directly, printed or as a DRM-free ebook) on the Pragmatic Programmers website. It's been translated to Chinese and Japanese.