One of the limitations in mobile design is the lack of any sort of hover state. This is especially problematic when it comes to tooltips.

So why isn't the system one where: single tap = hover and double-tap = click?

I'm not asking whether we should do that now, as breaking what people have come to expect is a poor idea, but more about why that system wasn't used from the start. It would give designers far more flexibility and power, with only minimal downsides for end users.

Edit: The question was triggered by the first point in a recent blog post by UXMovement. I thought it discussion worthy.


3 Answers 3


The all important terminology is touch not tap.

To engage with a device in a friendly and natural way, users should just touch.

We don't have tap devices, we have touch devices.

User don't really want to tap or prod - it's slightly aggressive - as if interacting with something dangerous, they certainly don't want to double tap which is more difficult, certainly for the slower and less accurate portion of the population.

Touch is natural. Touch and hold is also natural and easy and that's why it's suitable for tooltip/hover/menu style interaction.

  • 1
    How discoverable is touch and hold for tooltips?
    – JohnGB
    Nov 18, 2011 at 20:51
  • 2
    @Roger Attrill Touch is the generic term for all interactions with a "Touch Device" Tap is a specific type of Touch Interaction, as is swipe, two-finger tap, etc. Touch is to broad a term. Nov 18, 2011 at 21:21
  • @JohnGB The problem with that is, using iOS again as an example, touch and hold already has OS level interactions associated with this. You would have to override these (if possible) to stop them and reinterpret them. This posses the same problem as replacing right click functionality in web apps, where the user loses those OS driver right click menus for your custom one, so this should only be used target specific use cases. Nov 18, 2011 at 21:22

I would challenge the idea that having to double tap for everything is only a minor inconvenience to the user. Tapping (or clicking) if the most often used interaction (Yes I am making an assumption here). Having to double tap makes me work that much harder every day to accomplish my tasks.

An important statement "It would give designers far more flexibility and power" I have to greatly disagree with. We, the designers are making products for them, not us. There are lots of things we can do as designers that would give us more flexibility, power, job satisfaction, etc. that would make the users life harder. We need to be looking at ways to accomplish things that make their life easier first.

There are other side effects to your proposition. Taking away double tap removes the ability to double click something and effect a different action, like it does on the desktop, like click to select vs double click to open. Mobile apps sadly lack the ability to do things like multi-select without the help of an edit mode which requires this kind of interaction. Hopefully this will begin to change, just as web apps have taken many things from the desktop over the years.

Touch interactions for mobile have started off very simple. Everything is single tap. I look forward to the touch interactions growing up to include some more robust interactions we as users are already used to, but I think tapping to hover, double tapping to click is in the wrong direction.

Just my opinion...

  • Some good points. What more robust interactions are you hoping to see as touch interactions grow up?
    – JohnGB
    Nov 18, 2011 at 20:48

Usually with mobile design it is tap to click. Press+hold for a 'hover' state.

  • 1
    Press and hold, at least on iOS, is more the equivalent of right click. It brings up a context menu depending on the item being interacted with. Options are usually Open Link in new window, Open, Copy, etc. Nov 18, 2011 at 18:21

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