If you’re following recent developments in consumer computer technology, you have noticed the recent trends by leading software companies to incorporate “gestures” into program and system user interfaces. Some of these gestures are familiar, obvious, intuitive, and relatively safe to use. Many newer software touch gestures, however, are not easy to discover (no hint on-screen that the gesture exists as a possible command) – while some may have scary unintended consequences such as deleting items, switching to special screens, etc. If an unexpected action is accidentally activated by a user, the undo or go-back command can be difficult to find (if revert command is available – several unknown gestures in a row may negate the ability to undo or go-back).
I found a very well-written article on the subject and potential dangers of gestures in user interface design from the ACM Interactions magazine, fall 2010 issue. The author has generously re-published (with permission) an edited version of the article at: Gestural Interfaces: A Step Backwards In Usability (D. Norman & J. Nielsen @ jnd.org).
To make software more useful to all people, we *must* continue to pay attention to fundamental principles of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) and User Interface (UI) Design. Thanks to the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) for promoting better user interfaces through articles like this one by Norman & Nielsen. Hopefully Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others will take note and be careful as they continue to build and enhance touch and movement-recognition interfaces in the computer systems of today and tomorrow!