3D Touch vs. Long Press

Long press is a purposefully slow gesture. It makes you stop, literally, and wait a second or so before you can move on with other things. Therefore, it’s suited best for tasks that you want to do very deliberately and only very occasionally, like rearranging the icons on your home screen. The nature of the long press makes it very unlikely you’ll do it accidentally, and so it’s perfect for these sorts of tasks. You have to think about a long press, and that’s a good thing[1].
Joe Cieplinski, On 3D Touch and Long Press

Joe summed up his thoughts on Twitter as “3D Touch = speeding up. Long Press = slowing down.” The idea there makes sense. It doesn’t need to be super fast to delete an app from your phone. But I don’t quite agree with his conclusion, that the two gestures should be kept separate. At the very least they need to work together more cohesively than they do now.

The first problem is that it is very easy, while long pressing, to accidentally press too hard. You can adjust the sensitivity of 3D Touch in the Accessibility settings, and as of iOS 9.3 I find this works out pretty well. But this is still a significant usability problem. I should never have to tell someone, “Okay, hold your finger for a moment. Well… more like rest it there. Lightly. Don’t press too hard, or something completely different will happen.” It’s okay for 3D Touch and long press to coexist, but they shouldn’t ever conflict. If there’s a long press gesture on something, it shouldn’t matter how hard I press. If it’s important to have both gestures on a single item, the long press should either cancel out—or better, add to—the 3D Touch action. Perhaps the same menu appears either way, but if you hold down long enough then additional options appear.

The next problem I have with Joe’s argument is that it has always been very easy to accidentally trigger a long press in many situations. I often rest my finger on the screen, especially if I’m slowing scrolling through a web page I’m reading. Sometimes I’ll be using my phone while I’m tired, and I’ll nod off with the screen unlocked. Suddenly a bunch of text is selected or my phone is ready to delete all my apps and their data. So I get the idea behind forcing people to slow down, but in practice that’s not always what’s happening. An action triggered by a long press may very well happen immediately, out of nowhere, while the user was essentially doing nothing. If anything, a dangerous gesture on a device with 3D Touch should require some amount of force to be sure it’s not just a resting finger. But, you probably want more than just force.

My last point is that aside from the home screen, long press gestures usually aren’t used to trigger anything dangerous. Copying a table row, selecting text, reordering items, opening menus. In most cases they’re advanced actions that advanced users want to happen quickly. I think the vast majority of long press actions should use 3D Touch instead, and probably will once it’s available on the majority of devices.

As for the home screen, I’m not entirely sure what the solution is there, but I don’t think the current implementation is great. Currently if I press too hard, I have to start the gesture over and try again. Perhaps if I activate 3D Touch and then hold my finger for a moment, an Edit button could appear at the top of the screen (where it’s unlikely to be tapped accidentally). That may not be the perfect solution, but it does demonstrate the type of thing I’d like to see: pressing with too much force or for too long shouldn’t penalize you, forcing you to start a gesture over again.

Posted April 08th, 2016 by Mike Piontek
Link to this entry: https://mikepiontek.com/go/8870

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