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The Fundamentals of Touchless UI Design

Published on Jul 09, 2020
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If you think interaction with digital devices is limited to using a keyboard or mouse, think again! Touchless technologies are just around the corner, making the experience of interacting with devices as native as possible. It has already penetrated our daily life with smart homes, augmented and virtual reality games, smart cars, etc.

There are multiple forms of human communication. We interact with voice, gesture and touch, with the choice to switch between them occurring seamlessly and naturally. Although human-computer interaction is much more complicated, touchless UI is a natural way to control and communicate with your device without having to press buttons or type on keyboards to complete a task.

What is Touchless UI?

Touchless UI, popularly referred to as Natural User Interface (NUI), is an intuitive interface that eliminates the use of mechanical devices such as a mouse or keyboard. Natural User Interface does not require any additional tools other than the ones you were born with (hands and voice). The advantage of such an interface is that it is very intuitive and the user does not have to specifically learn how to work with it. 

Natural User Interface is the result of understanding the reason behind the interaction and the context around it. Since we can now use our senses i.e. eyes, hands, mouth and fingers to control the interaction, we can delve into a wider range of UI approaches. At the same time, new options come with challenges. As a designer, it is important to understand the types of gestures that need to be supported and incorporate them accordingly.

Material design principles segregates gestures mainly into three categories:

1. Navigational gestures: Gestures that help users move through a product easily.
2. Action gestures: Action gestures can perform actions such as scrolling.
3. Transform gestures: Gestures that allow users to transform objects such as an element’s size, position, and rotation using gestures. 

Design Principles of Touchless Interfaces

The next generation of UI cannot blindly derive from old fundamentals of interaction design and incorporate it while developing a product. Designers can take into consideration the existing concepts but modify it according to the new type of interaction. Here are the 4 main principles one should keep in mind while designing for touchless UI based interfaces.

1. Should be Comfortable

Making the experience comfortable for the users should be a top priority for designers. Since the users will interact with gestures, it is important to ensure that users do not tire themselves by the time they complete a task. Consider human body ergonomics while creating gesture-based interfaces. If a gesture is uncomfortable or too repetitive there is a high chance the user will abandon the product. Limit physical movement to minimum as it can get annoying for the users.

2. Should be Easy to Understand

Use existing gestures to make the gap smaller. Try to imitate sign language or borrow gestures from real life to execute functions so that people do not have to learn a special gesture language. Study how users perform tasks naturally and incorporate these movements into your UI.

3. Should be Accessible

Gesture-based interfaces can be problematic for users with disabilities. Not everyone has the fine motor control to perform gestures with a hundred percent accuracy. It is important to ensure that your design supports the use of assistive technology like a joystick or electronic pointing devices. 

4. Should provide Realistic Responses

UI elements should respond to gestures in real-time to improve overall user experience. That’s why while designing gestures, one must aim at simplicity and high responsiveness. The latency in the UI response should be reduced to a minimum.

Long story short

Both voice and gesture recognition UI are developing technologies and provide incredible opportunities to change the way we interact with our devices. Touchless UI will bring in a native perspective on the human-computer interaction model, resulting in unique and wholesome user experiences. 

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