I'm designing an android application with multiple tabs for viewing different lists. In one of the tabs, the items of the list can be removed; maybe using swipe to delete option, but the problem is swiping can also result in changing to the adjacent tab according to material design guidelines. What should be done? Shall I not provide the option to swipe to delete here? and if so, how can a user delete an item in the list with ease?

  • Am I right in thinking you already have a swipe action assigned to a function? Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 8:59
  • I don't understand your question, I'm just saying swiping can result in two actions, isn't that confusing? as long as both swipes are horizontally. @DarrylGodden Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 9:25
  • "I'm just saying swiping can result in two actions" that's the confusion right there. Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 9:29
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    "Because swipe gestures are used for navigating between tabs, don't pair tabs with content that also supports swiping." material.io/guidelines/components/tabs.html# Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 9:57
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    @Jack-in-the-box You can have one or the other but not both - If you are using swipe to switch tabs then the delete function is unexpected behaviour. If you are using swipe for delete then switching tabs is unexpected behaviour. Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 12:33

3 Answers 3


Users can only remember so much

This is a known usability problem in gesture-based UIs. There are only so many gestures users will discover and use proficiently. When you factor in the number of apps that each have solve interaction in their own way, the user's memory load becomes staggering. With the small selection of available, usable, and learnable gestures, confusing areas of overlap are inevitable.

Expanding the toolkit

Samsung and Apple tried to expand the gesture repertoire with hover detection and pressure levels, respectively. That didn't turn out well because users were constantly surprised by the behavior and the adoption curve never grew (I kinda liked both, TBH).


There are a few options to address the limited usable gestures without totally giving up on gesture-based UI.

  1. Object-level gesture rules: Detect the location of the gesture and change behavior based on proximity to UI objects, eg list items, actions, notifications, and navigation. This can be tricky in a dense UI where one type of object (eg list items) dominate the real estate.
  2. Spatial gesture rules: Gestures within the main areas of the UI can trigger different actions than gestures from the edge of the viewing area. This requires dexterity on the user's part and, given the edge area, is error prone.
  3. Gesture duration rules: Detecting a fast gesture vs an extended gesture. This is most often used for tap vs tap-and-hold. It could be repurposed for swipe vs tap-hold-swipe.

Real world answers

If you get creative with gestures, you might stumble on some great solutions. Tap, swipe, and hold provide a reasonable toolkit. Get creative and think about the repetitive tasks your users need to complete.

Real answers to nuanced questions like this come from your users.

  1. Do your homework
  2. Develop prototypes
  3. Test with your users
  4. Repeat

I don't mind here to solve it by just deciding whether the swipe gesture is exactly at only one of the list item or not.

As user swipes, the swipe can be checked with its position and then decision can be made within a function to decide if tab change or the deletion of the list item would be executed/intended.

  • This will likely result in a significant number of errors and a bad UX experience, as users who want to change tab end up deleting an item, and vice-versa. A gesture should map to one action only. Swipe is the easiest gesture and should be associated with the most frequent action. An alternative way should be provided: either touch to change tab, or long touch to select and swipe down to a trash icon to delete. Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 17:04
  • Yeah, that way is better actually as you say so. I just wanted to express that it’s possible to have them both used at the same time. Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 17:08

If swiping changes tabs on Android, then press and hold provides options to delete. If the question is about consistent Android experience, there should no be no arguments here. Just follow the usual. Swipe and delete is from iOS point of view. There is no reason to mix and no question of overlap.

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