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Designing for Multi-Touch, Multi-User and Gesture-Based Systems

Summary of Specific Recommendations

  • Affordances
    • Focus on features, actions, and interactions that can be represented visually, as opposed to actions or features that are hidden within non-visible menus. Users need to see what is possible just by glancing at your system.
    • Read up on Gestalt principles of design (based on Gestalt psychology), to understand how the form and visual treatment of objects relates to user perception. Use physical icons (phicons) to bridge the tangible and digital worlds.
  • Engagement
    • Keep users in the flow by focusing on simple, quick, natural interactions. Emotional attachment that is created during fun, playful interactions with your application will transfer to how users feel about your brand long after using your system.
    • Strive for good interaction aesthetics (how the interactions feel while accomplishing something over time); as opposed to visual aesthetics that mainly impact initial perceptions, interaction aesthetics are all about how your system feels while interacting with it.
  • Feedback
    • Feedback must be immediate, and easily noticeable by all concurrent users; use visual design rather than textual feedback.
    • Leverage existing social behavior that people will naturally exhibit, such as verbal communication and simply being able to see what collaborating users are doing. Because of the natural social norms of users, you don't have to design for many potential conflicting user actions (for example, two users trying to play a song at the same time).
  • Don't Make Us Think
    • Try to minimize hidden functionality, except for contextual features that only make sense when revealed during specific interactions. All primary objects that can be interacted with should be visible so that users do not have to remember what is possible. A new user should be able to learn how to use your system just by watching others use it.
    • Use a mix of phicons (physical icons) and digital objects to allow multiple concurrent users to easily see the complete state of the system.


Clark, Andy. Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension

Few, Stephen. Information Dashboard DesignThe Effective Visual Communication of Data

Gibson, John J. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception

Krug, Steve. Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Second Edition

Norman, Don. The Design of Everyday Things

Norman, Don. Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes In The Age Of The Machine

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