The scenario

We have a screen with a view containing many small symbols. The user will have to choose a single element. In order to find the correct element, he'll have to pinch and pan. As you can see in the picture we're thinking about 2 different solutions to mark a symbol (heart):


A) Drag the containing view in order to get the heart in the middle of a fixed cross. Sounds complicated, but as you have to pinch and pan anyway to figure out the right symbol, you would minimze the amount of gestures.

B) Click the element. Sounds simple, but in order to click the element, you first have to zoom into the view and do some pan gestures. All in all you would have more gestures than in solution A.

All in all it's an easy question and I'm sure that everyone has his personal opinion. But that's exactly our problem. In order to explain our decision to clients and management, we need some objective criteria which are based on relevant use cases and empirical effort.

Does anyone prefer a specific solution because of a usabliity design pattern or the like?

Thanks for your help

2 Answers 2


I'm assuming the image is high resolution? OR that there are a lot of small images on the screen.

If the whole image fits on the screen wouldn't tapping make more sense?

If the image doesn't fit on the screen, allow the user to zoom/pinch/drag to search for the symbol they're searching for. Once it's visible on the screen they should be able to tap on it. Forget the whole 'cross' thing. It's very annoying to a user to have to 'wait' to get the cross over the item rather than just tapping it once in view.

  • Thanks for the input! The whole image doesn't fit on the screen... But I like your point: it takes more time to do the 'cross'thing. Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 8:01

If precision isn't a key factor, a tap makes the most sense to implement. It's a more instinctual behavior with mobile devices.

If you handed me a phone with small objects and asked me to locate the heart, my first reaction would be to tap where the heart is.

  • I can also suggest to show a list of items which are located in that point so user probably could choose the right item from this list, i.e. tap will select not exact item (if there are several near the tap zone) but the group which could be narrowed down. Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 6:35
  • Thanks for the answer - precision is a key factor, that's why the user has to pinch and drag anyway... So your point would be: "tap is more instinctive than drag"? Do you have a source or design pattern which proves your point? I prefer tap, too, but I have co-workes who say:"The pan is more instinctual for me" ;) Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 7:56
  • @alexpegov It has to be like in the example above... Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 7:57

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