Why you Need Haptic Feedback in your App

February 19, 2020
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Haptic Feedback

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With more than 4 million apps in both Google Play and the Apple App Store, it’s hard for us users to feel impressed anymore. Even when roughly 7,400 apps are released every day when combining the 2 stores, only a handful of them are capable of getting our attention. It’s as if developers can’t find the way to amaze us anymore, so we’re stuck with the same old apps.

However, manufacturers of mobile devices work on new features with each new product they launch, providing mobile engineers with new capabilities to take the apps to the next level. Companies that learn how to take advantage of them might shake our interest, so keeping an eye on what’s new is key to create excitement.

In that context, the appearance of haptic technology, in general, and haptic feedback, in particular, promises app developers with new abilities to enrich our mobile experiences. In fact, if you already have an app for your company or are thinking of developing one, then you should definitely consider using haptic feedback in it. Here’s why.


What’s Haptic Feedback

The word “haptic” may not ring a bell for you but you’re surely familiar with haptic communication in some sort of way. All haptic technologies try to achieve the same goal – to create a tactile experience for the user through the use of force, vibrations, or motions. 



If you own an Apple Watch, then you have certainly experienced it firsthand. Whenever the device taps you to tell you there’s a new notification or alert, it uses haptic technology. Though the watch’s use of haptics is somewhat basic, it’s enough for you to understand what’s all about. 

And even if you don’t have an Apple Watch, you can certainly imagine what this is all about. By using a device’s sensors, an app can add a sensory experience that brings something new to the table. That’s what haptic feedback is all about – implementing a new layer that plays with your sense of touch whenever you interact with it. 

Android devices already have the haptic capabilities built-in. Ever since the iPhone 6S, iOS developers can use this tech too. What’s more: the newest versions of both OS have introduced a number of changes to their haptic capabilities, especially in iOS 13. There are more possibilities now, which bring something unique that can make your app stand out from the rest, as long as you know how to use them.


Using Haptic Feedback in your App

Since haptic feedback is a vibrational response that can be implemented to every tap, scroll, and slide you make on an app, it’s important to understand when it can add value – and when it can get annoying.

For instance, providing a small vibration whenever your app successfully carried out an important action can enrich the UX. That’s because it would provide positive feedback closely tied to a specific action. But if you use that small vibration for every button you have in your app, it quickly loses its charm and soon starts getting in the way. 

In that way, conceptualizing the use of haptic feedback is key for its success. Mobile games do a fantastic job in using them, as there are vibrations and nudges whenever you clash with an enemy or beat a level. Even if you haven’t played games in a while, you may be familiar with haptic feedback in gaming, as it was the technology that Nintendo used in its Rumble Pak all the way back in 1997.

So, while the use of haptic feedback isn’t precisely new, the new ways of implementing it on apps are making the difference. Today, we can identify 2 distinct types of haptic feedback that you can use in your app: transient and continuous. 


Transient Haptic Feedback

Transient feedback is the one you probably know the most. Those little taps from the Apple Watch? That’s transient haptic feedback in action. This type is a very brief event that comes and goes. Fortunately, there’s a little more to it than that. Thanks to new advancements, you can now define how intense the haptic feedback can get.

Thus, you can use a sharp haptic when there’s an error or an important notification that needs the user’s attention. On the other hand, you can use a more subtle haptic for something more ordinary, such as selecting an option from a menu or closing up a window. The sharpness of the haptic opens the door for variations that can bring a richer experience to your app.


Continuous Haptic Feedback

Continuous feedback feels more like a pattern, a succession of haptic taps or events. Unlike transient haptics, continuous haptics have a certain duration that you can keep going on for as long as needed. For example, a racing game might use this to provide a vibrating sensation when the player’s car is drifting in a curve at high speeds.

You can use a continuous haptic in your app to add rhythm to its use? Sounds strange? Think about it! Imagine that a process needs to load so you embed a continuous haptic with the loading bar to provide a dynamic vibration that goes along with how fast the bar is charging. It could certainly build some momentum and make the wait more exciting.


Going to the Next Level

If you want the best experience you can get out of haptics, then combining both types is essential. You can bring your app to life by using transient and continuous haptics, as long as you use them tastefully and without any abuse. 

But wait! There’s something extra in haptic feedback: audio-haptic event types. While it’s true that haptic communication is all about touch, adding a sound level to it can provide a more rounded experience for your users. And since you can configure the audio’s pitch, volume, and decay, you can create the perfect companion for your transient and continuous haptic experiences. 


Haptics as a Way to Improve UX

Haptic feedback isn’t just a small feature to spark your users’ curiosity. It is, in fact, a way to improve your app’s user experience. A better UX helps in getting more conversions and sales, and foster engagement, among other benefits. And even something seemingly small as haptic feedback can positively influence how users feel about your app.

That should be enough reason to have you running to your developers to get them to work in your app’s haptic capabilities. Because using this feature will show your users something new and exciting that will engage them beyond the traditional app interaction. 

Can’t imagine where you can use haptic feedback to improve your app’s UX?

Try one of the following things:

  • Create affirmative responses (when confirming an action or refreshing content).
  • Include it in specific slides or in off/on switches.
  • Support gestures (such as pinching to zoom in or out)
  • Develop a response for long presses (when it activates a contextual menu or provides access to new options)

There’s plenty more you can do with haptics in your app. The key here is to remember not to overdo it. Not all actions need haptic support nor have to trigger some sort of event. As with everything in UX, you need to balance the instances where you use the haptics with the ones where you don’t to ensure maximum effect.


A Little Detail That Goes a Long Way

There’s a reason why we included haptic technology as one of the trends of 2020: we certainly believe that it will bring new and exciting opportunities for developers. It’s true that the most promising ones are a little more sophisticated than these. However, using haptics in your app isn’t something you should sneeze at.

Haptics are among those kinds of little touches that make the user experience more satisfactory. Even if your users don’t notice right away or can’t put a finger on it, this new interaction layer will surely surprise and amuse them. It can even make you stand out from the millions of apps out there and feel fresh in the oversaturated app market. That’s not a minor thing.

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