Teaching Touch: Tapworthy Touchscreen Design

A session at SXSW Interactive 2012

Friday 9th March, 2012

3:30pm to 4:30pm (CST)

Discover the rules of thumb for finger-friendly design. Touch gestures are sweeping away buttons, menus and windows from mobile devices—and even from the next version of Windows. Find out why those familiar desktop widgets are weak replacements for manipulating content directly, and learn to craft touchscreen interfaces that effortlessly teach users new gesture vocabularies. The challenge: gestures are invisible, without the visual cues offered by buttons and menus. As your touchscreen app sheds buttons, how do people figure out how to use the damn thing? Learn to lead your audience by the hand (and fingers) with practical techniques that make invisible gestures obvious. Designer Josh Clark (author of O'Reilly books "Tapworthy" and "Best iPhone Apps") mines a variety of surprising sources for interface inspiration and design patterns. Along the way, discover the subtle power of animation, why you should be playing lots more video games, and why a toddler is your best beta tester.

Questions answered:
1. How should UI layouts evolve to accommodate the ergonomics of fingers and thumbs?
2. Why are buttons a hack? Why aren't they as effective as more direct touch gestures?
3. How can users understand how to use apps that have no labeled menus or buttons?
4. What's the proper role of skeuomorphic design (realistic 3D metaphors) in teaching touch?
5. How can animation provide contextual help to teach gestures effortlessly? How does game design point the way here?

About the speaker

This person is speaking at this event.
Josh Clark

Principal, Global Moxie

I'm a designer specializing in mobile design strategy and user experience. I'm author of the O'Reilly books "Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps" and "Best iPhone Apps." My outfit Global Moxie offers consulting services and training to help media companies, design agencies, and creative organizations build tapworthy mobile apps and effective websites. Before the interwebs swallowed me up, I worked on a slew of national PBS programs at Boston's WGBH. I shared my three words of Russian with Mikhail Gorbachev, strolled the ranch with Nancy Reagan, hobnobbed with Rockefellers, and wrote trivia questions for a primetime game show. In 1996, I created the uberpopular "Couch-to-5K" (C25K) running program, which has helped millions of skeptical would-be exercisers take up jogging. (My motto for fitness is the same for user experience: no pain, no pain.)

Next session in Ballroom A

5pm Applying Behavior Design by Chris Risdon


Take collaborative notes on this session with hackpad


Josh Clark at previous events

78 attendees

  • Andrew Lohman
  • Amy (Jimenez) Marquez
  • Andreas Bovens
  • Andreas R. Johnsen
  • ashmeister13
  • Ben McCanny
  • Björn Jeffery
  • Bjossi
  • bradhinson
  • Brian Behrend
  • Calvin Ly
  • Keith Chu
  • Clay Delk
  • Dan Oliver
  • David Kjelkerud
  • Darren Gibbons
  • ◄--It's me, Martyn G
  • EJ Lawless
  • Ethan Kaplan
  • John ousby
  • Frank Garofalo
  • Alden Hopkins
  • Josh Clark
  • gregone
  • Garrett Stettler
  • steffi
  • Krishna Billy Brown
  • Henrik Berggren
  • joe l
  • Joshua Bryant
  • Jeremy Abbott
  • James Madson
  • Jay Morrow
  • James Speer
  • Jennifer Brogee
  • jeremydaly
  • Jeremy
  • Jessica Rudzewicz
  • Johanna Evans
  • Josh Amos
  • Jeremy Caudle
  • Karen McGrane
  • Kesah
  • Kelvin Sumlin
  • mike kuzin
  • Marty DeAngelo
  • matlyles
  • Matt Lucht
  • Robert Mao
  • Melvyn Hills
  • Oliver Lindberg
  • Paul Scott
  • Jason Lewis
  • Misha S.
  • Andrew Pepperrell
  • Melissa Zhang
  • Ryan Freebern
  • Saul Cozens
  • Philippos Savvides
  • Sean Day
  • Michael Wong
  • Stephanie
  • Sheryl Soo
  • Shoni Gustafson
  • Alex Watson
  • Yesenia Sotelo
  • Oscar Llarena
  • Mike Nutt
  • Zaharenia A.
  • Tasneem Raja
  • Theba
  • Ralph Brandi
  • toft
  • Tom Kiss
  • Vincent Battaglia
  • Mary Beth Faccioli
  • Whitney Hess
  • Bora Celik

57 trackers

  • Ashley Novak
  • Alan Botvinick
  • Adam Cutler
  • Andrew Gold
  • Alexx Henry
  • Anna Dahlström
  • Anubhuti Jain
  • Beau
  • David Benardo
  • Ben Callahan
  • Chip Brantley
  • Chris Bernard
  • Christopher Allen
  • Cindy Li
  • Colin Schlüter
  • Craig Villamor
  • Paul Duncan
  • Matt Gibson
  • Sylvain Carle
  • Geoffrey Brown
  • Gerren Lamson
  • Grant K Norwood
  • Mary Zhu
  • Nannette Kye
  • Jason Rutherford
  • Jen Simmons
  • Jeremy Olson
  • John Knight 
  • Joel Parr
  • josh_andrews
  • Margaret Ngai
  • Luca Salvini
  • Mandy Shunk
  • Mark Meeker
  • Mark
  • Steve Myers
  • Natalie Downe
  • Nikolai Nolan
  • Patrick Haney
  • Rick Farrell
  • Rachel Lovinger
  • Ryan Berg
  • Sam Bao
  • Sandra Marshall
  • Scott McCaughey
  • Shannon Darrough
  • Sigurður Árni
  • Simon Willison
  • Larisa Chavarria
  • Max Gemeinhardt
  • Terry
  • Susan Weinschenk PhD
  • Todd Budnikas
  • Tom Insam 🎩
  • Jeff Whitney
  • xomotester
  • Mikael Zackrisson

Coverage of this session

Sign in to add slides, notes or videos to this session

Sign in to track this session

Tell your friends!


Time 3:30pm4:30pm CST

Date Fri 9th March 2012


Ballroom A, Austin Convention Center

Session type


Session Hash Tag


Short URL


View the schedule



Books by speaker

  • Tapworthy
  • Best iPhone Apps
  • iWork '09: The Missing Manual

See something wrong?

Report an issue with this session