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Product Management

In-App Gestures: An Interview with Tinder

Ashley Sefferman  //  August 19, 2015  //  5 min read

The success of a mobile app can dramatically depend on how well gestures are implemented into its user experience. Although most designers and developers are familiar with using gestures in mobile apps, few end up hitting a home run on their first try.

Mechanics of in-app gestures

Courtesy of UX Mag.

Tinder, on the other hand, can be credited for changing the way many designers and developers approach creating their mobile experience. With a simple swipe, Tinder took the mobile app world by storm and helped usher in an era where simplicity in usability wins.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Andrew Rudmann, Director of Product at Tinder, to talk about how Tinder changed their industry with the left-swipe gesture, and how app publishers should approach selecting in-app gesture(s) for their apps. Rudmann also gave a fantastic talk about gestures at a recent DRAFT LA Mobile Design meetup, which is well worth a watch.

Enjoy the following discussion, and be sure to leave additional questions for Andrew in the comments below!

Our Interviewee

Andrew Rudmann at Tinder
Andrew Rudmann is a Director of Product at Tinder who focuses on user experience and user interfaces.

Discussion: In-app Gestures and Mobile App Usability

Q: Thanks for chatting with us, Andrew! Can you share a bit about your background and what you do at Tinder?

Andrew: I’m currently the Director of Product at Tinder, with a focus on features. I’ve been at Tinder now for about one and a half years. Before coming to Tinder, I worked on the UX team at Aviary for a few years as they transitioned to mobile. I’ve always had an interest in user experiences and user interfaces as I come primarily from design background. I actually graduated from college with a degree in design and oil painting (ha).

Q: First, oil painting is awesome. Second, in your own words, what makes a good gesture?

Andrew: In order to make a “good” gesture, you have to start by looking at the current state of gestures in the mobile world. Right now, many designers and developers look at gestures as something app publishers will use all the time once they learn how to implement them.

I like to approach gestures as supporting actions that can accomplish tasks quicker than any other action (e.g. a click, a button, etc.). When it comes to selecting, think of it this way: Does the action the person is completing in their experience directly correspond to an action on the screen? If so, a gesture might be a good alternative to a traditional action.

Q: In your DRAFT LA Mobile Design talk, you discuss the benefits of card stack design. Can you elaborate on what makes this choice more desirable than a typical long scroll?

Andrew: Long scroll gets difficult to interact with after a certain point since it allows the consumer to take in multiple pieces of content at once. Because they’re in control of multiple pieces of content at once (typically one and a half pieces at any given time), they’re able to see the next piece of content as they’re looking at the current one. This takes away the focus from the intended content piece much like multitasking does when focus should be on one project at a time.

Q: But what happens if I swipe through the use of card stack design instead of scrolling?

Andrew: You immediately link the obvious touchable action with the quick gesture shortcut, speeding up your processing time and allowing yourself to digest one piece of content at a time. Card stacks are used to make sure everyone has their moment in the sun, and to hyper-focus the person on one task at a time.

In-app gestures UX mockup

Courtesy of UX Stack Exchange.

When it comes to long scrolling vs. card stack, you can get people to see more content quicker with a stack than you can with a scroll. You can get them to rapidly look at new things and make a decision on it, which drives action quicker.

Q: Any other verticals where card stack design is obvious?

Andrew: It could work in a lot of places where content doesn’t need permanence. When the consumer needs to make a decision quickly, cards are a perfect choice.

Additionally, cards work well when you need to get a person to accomplish a specific task. If you’re at a networking event, for example, the goal is to meet people, and cards could be a good way to make a connection. If you’re looking at Tinder, the goal is to help push users to meet people do something real with it. We’ve found that cards enable our customers to accomplish that task in a quick, easy way.

Q: When should you use a gesture instead of a button?

Andrew: There are two main reasons to use a gesture over a button:

  1. Ease of use. For example, when you need to delete items on a mobile phone, tapping one item at a time to delete is time consuming. A simple shortcut is to swipe to the left to allow you to delete, which is what we’ve had success with at Tinder. Using a gesture rather than a button allows you to speed up and more efficiently complete the action, without having to take up screen real estate.
  2. Eliciting an emotional response. The emotional response is what Tinder touches on with the card swipe. It’s no coincidence Tinder’s matches and messages screens both swipe right. When the screens are set up in the same way, it creates a metaphorical pile of cards either on the right or left, and attaches the cards with a word like “Nope” or “Like.” People have even created videos of people pretending to swipe in real life (editor’s note: like this hilarious TRUTH commercial). Emotions are powerful, especially if you can get someone to relate the emotion to a gesture obvious to the action being taken.

Q: What are your final tips for picking the right gesture?

Andrew: With a new product, my number one tip is to tie the gesture to an action. Allow the gesture stand with the action and to drive it. It’s really hard to do when you’re making a new product, so make sure you’re not having to teach people a whole new way of interacting with an interface before selecting a gesture.

Lastly, make one product-defining gesture. It’s easier said than done, but if people associate your app with the “swipe down” or “swipe up,” it gives you a leg-up on your competition.

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Thanks for the awesome discussion, Andrew! Tinder is sure lucky to have you as part of their product team.

Do you have additional questions for Andrew around in-app gestures? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

About Ashley Sefferman

Ashley Sefferman is Head of Content at Apptentive. A digital communication and content strategy enthusiast, she writes about multichannel engagement strategies, customer communication, and making the digital world a better place for people. Follow Ashley on Twitter at @ashseff.
View all posts by Ashley Sefferman >

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