What does current UX research tell us about gestures on mobile devices? Which gestures are the simplest to execute and which are not? What makes a mobile gesture intuitive?

For example: Do users generally find making a 3/4 arc movement with the thumb as easy to execute as a swipe left?

I've been googling for research papers but I'm unable to locate any. Thanks in advance.

3 Answers 3


Here are some of the most common ones I have seen in a variety of style guides and documentation. If you want to see if users are familiar with them you could set up a mechanical turk and ask them to guess what they would think the following features might mean on a device. Or if its a new gesture or a gesture they are already aware of.

enter image description here via uxmag.com

However there are always novel gestures being developed.

I am a huge fan of the radial menus as seen below. enter image description here

more unique applications of gestures are shown Here

  • Thanks but I'm already familiar with these and other gestures. I'm looking for research papers/articles on the easy of certain gestures over others. I'm curious though why your a fan of radial menus. I've always found them more difficult to navigate as making a precise arc with my thumb doesn't feel as easy to make.
    – Mark
    Apr 28, 2015 at 1:33
  • Yeah I was looking at sigmobile and sigchi but couldn't find any hard data. Also that wouldn't be an easy experiment to run. Apr 28, 2015 at 1:58

I did a search on Google Scholar and found a paper in which the authors develop a user-defined gesture set to use on mobile device. Resulting gesture set is motion based (OP was probably looking for touch based gestures) but it is more intuitive to the test users as they have defined it themselves.

Modern smartphones contain sophisticated sensors to monitor three-dimensional movement of the device. These sensors permit devices to recognize motion gestures—deliberate movements of the device by end-users to invoke commands. However, little is known about best-practices in motion gesture design for the mobile computing paradigm. To address this issue, we present the results of a guessability study that elicits end-user motion gestures to invoke commands on a smartphone device.


To our knowledge no research has been published describing the classification of motion gestures. As well, little research been done on end-user elicitation of motion gestures. Research on motion gestures has been focused on interaction techniques using motion input and tools to design motion gestures.

Lank, Li, Ruiz: User-Defined Motion Gestures for Mobile Interaction

I didn't found any papers on how would user-defined set of touch gestures look like or what would be the most intuitive touch gestures.

Though, come to think of it, user-defined set of touch gestures would probably look a lot like something we already have (as best practices, on design guides) because of all the exposure to touch screens.

Not surprisingly, there is at least one book on how touch interaction could be more natural.

Brave NUI World: Designing Natural User Interfaces for Touch and Gesture by Daniel Wigdor and Dennis Wixon

The second realization is that these input devices, while not themselves creating a better user experience, could be enablers for the creation of a UI that is more natural to use, and could fundamentally change the way we interact with technology. We dub this the natural user interface.

For a bonus here is Direct Manipulation Interfaces by Hutchins, Hollan and Norman.

  • That is a great find. The article kept referring to another study on "surface" gestures by wobbock. I did a scholar search and found the another article as well. google.com/url?q=http://scholar.google.com/…
    – Mark
    Apr 29, 2015 at 11:51
  • @Mark That probably is more in line with what you were looking for but key seems to be user-defined. Wonder if there have been any UCD going on when all the gestures were "invented". Apr 29, 2015 at 12:42
  • @locationunknown the last link appears to be broken now, but it looks like this one works uic.edu.hk/~amyzhang/teaching/COMP3050/readings/…
    – vanomart
    Mar 5, 2017 at 20:01

I would advice you to read Apple's HIG on the topic.

  • I'm familiar with Apples HIG. However Apples HIG are just guidelines, not research. It doesn't answer why users found certain common gestures more effective than other, or the research methods behind the decisions.
    – Mark
    Apr 28, 2015 at 1:38
  • @Mark true. I will try to find something for you.
    – JW_
    Apr 28, 2015 at 8:32

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