Chapter 3. Patterns for Touchscreens and Interactive Surfaces

"It is the tactile sense that demands the greatest interplay of all the senses."

Marshall McLuhan, interviewed in Playboy, March 1960

This chapter concerns the patterns that have emerged—some over the past 30 years—for using touchscreens and other touch-sensitive devices. Patterns are a combination of a gesture plus a system response that can be repeated in a variety of situations across many devices (although most, if not all, of these patterns require certain sensors to be in place). Patterns capture a structure of call and response. Where possible, context has been left out or relegated to the EXAMPLES section of each pattern.


See GESTURES FOR TOUCHSCREENS in this book's appendix for a description of the gestures used in these patterns.

Patterns for touchscreens can also, in many cases, be applied to free-form interactive gestures, just slightly modified. For instance, the Spin to Scroll pattern can be performed with a finger on a device, but it could also be performed in the air with a finger.


There are several ways to use patterns. The first is the simplest: just read through them and be aware that they exist. Internalize them so that they will appear organically as you design. The second way to use them is as a reference while designing: if you get stuck, a pattern may suggest a solution. The third way is to use them as Walt Disney did, to make a good idea even better, a concept he called plussing ...

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