Building your own gestures

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2013 is coming to a close, and slipping in under the wire is a brand new operating system brought to us by Jolla called Sailfish. You can check out our coverage of Sailfish from MWC 2013 all the way to our quick impressions having actually used the device, or at least as much as we Americans could use it.

One thing that really stuck with us was the major use of gestures in the interface. Just about anything you want to do comes with its own gesture. Now, we here at Pocketnow have special places in our hearts, down near but just to the left of the cockles of our hearts, for gesture-based operating systems. It’s funny, but as much as people love to point to webOS as a gesture based OS, there were really only a couple of them – the back swipe and the swipe up.

But all the same, we loves us some gestures, and not just as a communication medium on the highway when some jerk is driving 45 miles per hour in the freakin’ left lane at nine o’clock at night when there’s no traffic as far as the eye can see….sorry. I’m back now.

gesturesLearning curve

But one problem with gestures is how to effectively communicate the gestures themselves to the phone/tablet using masses. Unlike buttons, gestures are not necessarily very intuitive. People need to learn what the gestures are, what they do, when to use them, etc. And learning is hard. But seriously, most people don’t want to have to take a 30 day correspondence course just to use their fracking phone, right?

But what if there’s another approach to gesture adoption that would be easily learned. In fact it’d be so easy to learn, people would literally just make it up as they go. What I’d like to see is an operating system/skin/whatever that actually allows the user to create their own gestures and integrate them into the operating system.

Issues

Right off the bat, we run into a problem though. Most operating systems that use gestures do so to avoid using buttons, or other means of navigation. Either the designers don’t want to use up valuable screen space for buttons or they consider them ugly. Whatever the reason, they don’t like them. Gestures are much more natural when trying to navigate. Plus from a phone use perspective, gestures are in many ways easier to use on a phone screen than tapping on a specific place on a specific screen.

ios gesturesBut allowing a user to define their own gestures leaves a gap between the time that a user turns on the phone for the first time and the time when the user defines said gestures. There are a few ways around this. My suggestion in this case is to have a default set of gestures that can be changed by the user either during initial setup, or after at any time. Basically, the first time you pick up the phone and power it on, you get a brief tutorial which shows you the pre-defined gestures and asks you if you’d like to change them. If so, you do. If not, they’re already set. Navigate away.

Buttons away!

Another way around this would be to incorporate buttons into the OS initially, which are automatically removed once a gesture is defined. Whether or not the button is actually removed could also be configurable. This would allow software makers to integrate all the functionality they need into an OS for the masses, and yet allow the more sophisticated <> other users different options if desired.

nokia-s60-touch-3d-gestures-2(1)The thing about gestures is, phones already have the capability to detect them. The whole concept of the multi touch display is to be able to do this. Whether you’re dragging your finger across the bottom third of the display, or doing the five-finger wipe thing which I’ve heard is useful (even if I can’t imagine anyone ever doing it) your screen is designed to see these movements nd react to them. Therefore, in theory, we’re talking about a software solution. Gosh, it would be fun to bring back the backswipe or the swipe up to get to the home screen. I for one would add a few gestures, but not a whole heck of a lot. I’m definitely bringing back the back gesture, and the swipe up for the home screen, and probably a gesture for copy and another for paste. Beyond that, I’m not picky.

What about you?

If you had the ability to create custom gestures on your phone, would you? What gestures would you want/create? Sound off below and let us know.

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs.Read more about Adam Doud!