Natural User Interface Gestures. Are They Global?

I was reading an interesting BBC article about how language changes are being driven by the internet. Examples are cited from English, Ukrainian, and more. In its own right, this is an interesting subject, reminding us that such changes are global.

How such changes can be reflected in our information quality efforts, and how applicable they are to everyday ‘plain’ use as opposed to specialized, domain-specific needs is a subject I’ll return to.

My eye was drawn to the following in the article:

The dreaded force-quit process of pressing ‘Control, Alt, Delete’ is known as ???? (dulya).

“A dulya is an old-fashioned Ukrainian gesture using two fingers and a thumb – something similar to giving a finger in Anglo-Saxon cultures,” she said.

“And you need three fingers to press the buttons. So it’s like telling somebody (a computer in this case) to get lost.”

This made me consider a section in the 150-page Apple iPad User Guide (PDF), listing out the natural user interface, finger-based, gestures for that device. For example:

  • Two-finger flick up: Read all, from the top of the screen.
  • Three-finger flick up or down: Scroll one page at a time

I wonder if some of these might be ‘tricky’, internationally? Certainly the use of hand and finger gestures (or, indeed, of other body parts) has long been regarded as a potential international no-no when designing graphics. I’d love to hear your opinion.

For some, it would seem that some of these gestures are even positively disgusting!

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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