Should an iOS app employ swipe gesture to move between 5 main panels docked at the bottom?

Fb messenger, whatsapp, quora and twitter don't have this feature but I have shown my application to 3 different people at different times, and they asked for this function!?

I am surprised, what do you think?

: twitter has a carousel-like on the first tab so swipe finds its place there as expected.

  • Are the 3 people you showed it to iOS users, or are they Android users? (I've noticed this pattern on a few Android apps) Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 1:04
  • Swiping between functions is pretty rare these days. Is there something about your 5 main panels specifically that might be leading people to think they can or should be able to swipe? A particular workflow in the app, for instance, might suggest that swiping would take you somewhere.
    – Drew Beck
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 9:21
  • @JonathanHobbs they are coming from an android background, although two of them started to use iOS, that might be the reason as you have said.
    – EralpB
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 10:23

1 Answer 1


Basing your apps functionality on what the user tells you they need is considered a wrong approach. In UX it's widely believed best practice to observe your users' behavior and base functionalities on that.

Users don't want what they tell you they want, but want what they don't know they want.

As for swipe gesture or just buttons, there isn't a clear winner there. Reports and expert opinions differ.

Pro button
Buttons have a clear and static affordance. It's clear what it does. The affordance on swipes can differ. The Facebook app lets you swipe between several images in your newsfeed when your friend uploaded multiple photos. In some apps, the swipe motion reveals the off-canvas menus on one or both sides. And in other apps it let's you switch between pages. The Flipboard app supports menu swipe gestures. It's takes a little time to get used to the app and some people never get used to it. This is because of the different affordances the swipe gestures bring with them. The trigger is not visible.
Swipes can also be difficult to trigger. In some apps you have to swipe from the outer edges of the screen in order to trigger a functionality. (A lot of) people will get it wrong and they'll blame your application.

Pro swipe
Other reports might tell you people want to swipe. They prefer certain interfaces where they can swipe between the content. On mobile devices they already swipe vertically, it's only natural for them to also swipe horizontally.
Buttons are static, normally between 40 and 48 pixels in height and has a fixed place on the screen. Having to reach for the button can be a strain on the thumb. Swipes are normally more "dynamical". The touch area is bigger and it doesn't constrain the user too much.

My advice? Do some more user testing. Check if the users actually try to swipe rather than letting them tell you they want the feature.

  • I can't get how people are going to use swipe if tabs aren't ordered according to a value of theirs or something. It requires too much brain activity to remember that you had to swipe right to get to 'ask question' tab from 'what's around' tab. I will add the swipe to first version and record uses and misuses(if you go back before 1 second, or 2?) then decide according to that data.
    – EralpB
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 10:33

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