In a time when everyone has an ‘eye for design’ and an opinion to back it up, it’s important to recognize that there’s an entire set of interface rules derived straight from nature. These principles dated all the way back to 1990 when Steve Mann developed a variety of strategies all based on natural interaction with the real world. These came as an alternative to early interfaces such as command line interface (CLI) and graphical user interface (GUI). Using the word ‘natural’ referenced people’s programmed actions, physics, and nature.

Welcome the new standard.

Though much has changed in the technology realm in these 25 years, Mann’s original principles remain the same. These strategies evolved into what we know now as natural user interface (NUI). Much the same as Steve Jobs challenged his designers to go out and recognize the curved corners occurring in nature and then implement them into Macintosh, designers of mobile experiences are challenged with utilizing natural movements to drive usability. This usability advances user happiness, leading to repeated app usage.

Designers of mobile experiences are challenged with utilizing natural movements to drive usability.

Um, but what’s NUI?

Natural user interface creates an encounter that takes the user from novice to expert in very little time, relying on intuition and the body movements used daily. Learning quickly and feeling successful, users purpose this positive experience as fuel, igniting their transition from novice to expert. Much in the same way when we learn a new skill and develop muscle memory, we continue to use it with greater and greater ease. NUI promotes experimentation and development without the user even knowing it’s happening.

Using NUI in real life.

As we develop user interfaces at Myriad, NUI is at the heart of what we do. One of our design principles is simplicity: If you have to explain the user interface, it’s not intuitive. Here in the mobile world, we understand that we have a seven-second window for the user to grasp the functionality of the app before they likely become too frustrated to continue usage.

Recognizing technology as a tool to make life better, here are a few of our guiding design principles as they relate to NUI:

Stupidly Simple

Keep gestures simple. Simplicity leads to intuitive gestures. Designing complicated gestures minimized the people who will be able to, or even want to, perform.

Digit Design

Since we’re designing for fingers and not cursors, you need to make targets larger.
8-10mm for tips
10-14mm for finger pads.

Kinesiology Kindness

Keep in mind that fingers get tired. Users hate repetitive tasks or having to extend their digits too far/often. The fewer clicks to accomplish the task, the better.

Naturally Neutral

You read left to right, turn pages from left to right, naturally you’re going to swipe accordingly – account for that.

Duration Double Take

Duration as a trigger is commonly overlooked. Know your audience and don’t interject super quick or slow durations as triggers when it’s not appropriate.

Be Intentional

Start paying attention to our natural movements and make sure to account for everyday movements that could unintentionally trigger an action.


Simple tasks need simple gestures; complex tasks can require more complicated gestures. Match them up and make the user happy.

A user’s experience is the key to success or failure of your mobile app.

As we’re one team, under one roof, our developers can challenge designers and vice versa to create the ultimate experience for users.

Be like Steve and challenge your designers to account for natural movements. Utilizing natural user interface will not only make your organization look great, but create happy users, and ultimately satisfied customers.


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