Key UX Guidelines for Tap and Touch-Screen Devices

By Danielle Arad


With the importance of user experience in today’s thriving tech world, stable UX guidelines have become increasingly important in software, web frontend and app design. Without a set of standards of practices, companies that are eager to design effectively for user experience will only open up a whole can of worms.

What Can User Experience Guidelines Provide for You?

Standards set a science and ground rules for how design for a specific purpose, platform, demographic or system are to be approached. This ensures that everything works properly and continued development of said host system can forecast designs working a specific way when built. Additionally, UX guidelines ensure that users can quickly learn new software/ User will not have to shift too many mental gears when going from one application to another within a standard. Take, for example, Windows programs. They normally use a shared set of GUI controls and a fairly standard range of layouts. This is why new systems have very structured system development kits (SDKs) to ensure that designs comply with standards set by a platform.

What are some touch/tap device guidelines for design and user experience?

I’ll talk a little about limitations and differences in methodology, and what this does to affect how design for these systems ought to work.

Give buttons and components space to have oversized click areas, as well as drag areas where applicable.
Keep in mind that with touch devices, they are often going to be smaller. Most touch devices use smaller interface is for compactness and portability. It’s usually a PDA (though these are becoming obsolete), a tablet, smartphone or even handheld gaming system (also becoming obsolete as a stand-alone device). This means, first and foremost, that controls (components of the interface such as buttons, text boxes, menus etc.) should never crowd one another. Tapping is fairly precise with a stylus, but becomes a bit less so when fingers are involved. On the fly, most people will use their fingers rather than fumble with the stylus.

Tab multiple purpose windows, and use a paged/card interface, to make the best use out of limited space and evasion of control crowding.
Following this small area problem and extending on the crowding issue, too many controls or assets per screen is a bad idea. Again, controls will need space to be big enough to discern, images be viewed and text read. If too many controls are on a small screen area, it becomes hard to make anything out. UI navigation tools that provide context and clarity can certainly help; however, from here, it’s wise to consider not trying to go for a traditional windowed interface.

Avoid onscreen keyboards if possible.
They’re never pleasant to interact with. If one must be used, do not under any circumstances design or use auto fill. The internet is rife with pages showing hilarious and inappropriate things these have caused people to unwittingly type.

Avoid swiping and multi-touch were possible.
These get tiresome, are not natural motions for using a computer, and can be hard to do on handheld devices. These should be reserved for large “desktop” touch systems where both hands are free.

I could go on a long time about UX guidelines for touch devices, but I must be brief. If this is all you take away from the topic, then I feel I’ve pointed out the most crucial bits at least.

Danielle Arad is Director of Marketing and User Experience Specialist of, the world’s first interactive website guidance system. She is also chief writer and editor of UX Motel, a blog for user experience experts. Follow her @uxmotel.
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