Visual Book Report: Designing for Touch by Josh Clark

Aug 18, 2017 · 3 min read

As a new UX designer, every book I pick up is loaded with advice and ideas I never even knew to look for before I entered the profession.

Josh Clark’s Designing for Touch is a snappy introduction to direct user screen interaction design. The text manages to take a look at best practices while simultaneously keeping an open mind about changing industry standards. Here are some of my quick takeaways:

Visual book report.


The bottom of the screen RULZ compared to the top of the screen.

The way a user holds a device can drastically change their experience. Try holding a smaller device one-handed — it’s important to get a feel for how far the user’s fingers and thumbs can move across the screen. Important functional actions should be near the bottom of the screen so users do not have to hold a device with one hand and poke at it with their other hand (see page 9).

Test one-handed!

It is important to acknowledge the touchpoint map, but it is more interesting to actually test your touchpoint assumptions. I have been guilty of testing in-house mobile development projects sitting on my desk as I poke at the screen with both hands. In any kind of closed setting, it is so easy to forget that we need to step away from our desks. We want to use our technologies where our users might be — maybe at the store, in the middle of signing papers, holding twelve things, all while attempting to use the application we made. Testing in context is the greatest. Do it (see page 11).

Feedback should happen above the touchpoint (no blocking).

This is one of those great design tips that industry people just know. It seems so obvious, and yet is so easy to overlook. If a user is touching a screen, they cannot see what is under their hands (see page 19).

Touchpoints need at least 2mm distance between targets.

Clark’s book is full of industry best practices like these. When you start wireframing and designing basic layout rules and ratios, focus your thinking on the user and ease of use practices. Rules like these are a great way to bridge the line between your development team and UX team. Touchpoint target parameters are not just visual choices — they are best practices for our users (see page 58).

Replace short menus with single tap options.

I love this suggestion. It expands your thought process without defining specific solutions. It is up to you to think of that single tap option, but it is a quick reminder that multiple taps and scrolls can be difficult to understand on small screens (see page 86).

Every time you add a button to your layout, challenge yourself: can I find another way to manipulate content more directly?

Touchscreens… you can touch them, all over. Buttons can be great as callouts that will help lead your user understand important functions. But if users can touch their screens, why not flatten interaction to let the user manipulate content as directly as possible (see page 103)?

It’s a good book; check it out.

Clark, Josh. Designing for Touch. New York, NY: A Book Apart, 2015. Print.

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