The Future of 3D Touch

Apple, Design, Technology

Convenience is king.

All designers want to make products that not only function perfectly, but that also delight users. However, the desire to create a beautiful and enjoyable experience must not conflict with a user’s primary goal – to perform their intended task.

Ultimately, users open your app with a task in mind. It may be to view a news feed, send a message, or to take a photo. Delightful interactions that help them complete these goals are always welcome, but if you’re actually slowing them down – well, you’ve blown it.

So this brings me on to 3D Touch. My new iPhone 6s arrived in the office today and the first feature I rushed to try was the much lauded “peek and pop” of 3D Touch. Tim Cook suggests it could be a game changer. From my short time testing it out, he may be right.

Gimmicks are nothing new. Siri has its uses, but currently its use is limited. Whilst Apple TV could finally be the problem that Siri was made to solve, at the moment it’s not unfair to file it away as a gimmick.

3D Touch on the other hand has the potential to fundamentally change how we use the iPhone. Obviously the ability to peek in to content and then pop to see the full thing is a time saver that cuts out multiple steps. Even more significant (in my eyes) is the ability to use 3D Touch on the home screen icons. This allows a user to dive straight into a valuable area of an app. At the moment it’s only really enabled on a few native apps (and Instagram), but I can’t wait to see this rolled out to products with more complex navigation paths.

There is still a crucial 3D Touch problem to be solved. How do we inform users that peek and pop is enabled and available? I knew I could use it on iMessage and Mail.app from the Apple demos, but no clear affordance is given. Imagine the scene today as millions of iPhone users unwrap their new devices and experiment in every app to see if 3D Touch is incorporated. Exploration and experimentation is the only way of discovery at the moment.

Do we need a standard way of visualising that 3D touch is available? Is that level of affordance needed or will tutorials and experimentation be the default method? The future of 3D Touch is going to be very interesting and I’m excited to see how this feature evolves and to see what wondrous ways 3rd party apps will incorporate it. Me? I already have a bunch of ideas. Watch this space.

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