Does a swipe mean more than click? Does a hover indicate indecision and a firm push mean certainty? As touchscreens begin to dominate internet interaction, can we learn more from a human gesture than we did from the click of a mouse? And if we can, what are the benefits?
There’s now somewhere in the region of 4 billion touchscreen smartphones in the world. Some 80 per cent of the US population uses a smartphone. Add in tablets as well and it emerges that more web usage happens on a mobile device than it does on a desktop or laptop. And when you consider that many modern laptops also include touchscreen capability then it becomes very clear – we increasingly live in a touchscreen world. You could say that we now longer surf the internet but instead we touch it.
Touchscreen taking over
Touchscreen technology is also appearing in watches, on digital screens for all kinds of domestic devices and appliances, and even on Amazon’s Alexa product which we can now interact with by voice or by touch. Any child born in the last ten or so years will only know a world of touchscreens. These children are learning and understanding a new type of interaction and engagement – but it’s second nature to them while others of us are only just beginning to get to grips with the technology and to understand its advantages.
Of course, the use of a physical gesture to trigger an action is as old as mankind itself – whether that gesture was designed to welcome someone in or scare someone away. But those are human interactions which only now are being extended to the machine environment. But there’s little doubt, for example, that swipes in their various Tinder-style directions are very obvious indicators of intent – much more so than a mouse click which could be inadvertent. So too are multi-touch functions using one or more fingers in a way that requires specific rather than random intent. Even pressure gestures such as holding your finger in one spot for an extended period or slight pushing on the screens can trigger a specific interaction and cause your device to do something.
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Swiping to improve User Experience
So, the question is, what can we learn from this more human interaction to improve the experience? How can a marketer, brand or agency glean data from these gestures to improve their web content and supporting advertising? Can they use it to optimize their site – to turn readers into subscribers or viewers into customers. In fact, there are a number of ways designers and marketers can use touch and gesture information to build better sites and deliver better results. For example, heat maps are a great way to start to understand this information by clearly labeling where on the device, web page or advertisement a person is touching or swiping or pressing.
It is accepted that our eyes scan print news pages in a clockwise motion, starting in the top left corner. Most web news pages are also designed with that basic premise in mind and even retail pages use a similar structure. But although sites can, and do, track mouse movements, if a viewer is simply scrolling down the page using the slider or a mouse wheel, it very hard to know where their eyes are scanning and what they might be reading when they halt their movement. On a touchscreen, we have other signals that can help.
Where the finger is on the screen during that movement for example, and whether any text gets the pinch and zoom treatment which viewers often use because the mobile device screen is smaller. Also, if – as the viewer is flicking the page down – that movement is reversed by touching on one item and bringing it back into view – that would be a reaction you would not necessarily pick up from the movement of a mouse wheel. These touchpoints will not only help from a creative standpoint to learn what is actually grabbing the attention of someone, but also in terms of what actions they choose to do as well.
Mobile insights into consumer behavior
Beyond the creativity and attention lessons, we can also use categorization to segment and take this data to the next level. By breaking down and analyzing these various gestures by the device type (Smartphone, tablet, etc.), operating system (iOS, Android), the browser being used, location, app and even the time of day we can gain really valuable insights into our customers and visitors.
These are all key data points that would provide incredible insight that can save marketing dollars by not placing advertisements in locations that clearly show a low level of gesture activity. With this data, marketers have exact insight into a market segment that really cares about their products or services.
Gesture data is also vital because it can help target key industry issues such as click fraud. If marketers became focused and said they would only pay for more engaging, human, gestures like Swipe Thru’s – so that they knew for sure the consumer wanted to visit their site and it was not an accidental or a robot click – then the click fraudsters would become marginalized.
Furthermore, video view-ability is constantly being discussed in connection with Facebook video, YouTube and many other outlets. By using gesture data points, it would become obvious that your content was viewable because you would be able to know that someone literally touched, swiped or pressed on your advertisement, video or site.
These concepts and the data points that stem from understanding consumer gesture activity are the first steps in a movement away from 20-year-old reporting methods to a new touchscreen world. It seems clear, a more informed marketing world is now literally at our fingertips.