What word can be used to mean either click or tap?

  • Very often we need to speak generically about clicking or tapping an item, but there seems to be a lack of vocabulary in English for this. We could just say "click or tap" every time, but that is just clumsy.

    Select is often used as a generic term, but it also has a different meaning (as in select text with the cursor) so could cause some confusion.

    So what word can be used to refer to "clicking or tapping" an item?


    I regularly work on web apps that run on a browser, so they are used on mobile (touch-based) and PCs. I've used the term 'click' in the past as a generic term, but on user testing it has shown to cause some confusion for users. Select has been the clearest, but I am loathe to use that term as it has another meaning.

    Some references:

    • Similar discussion at English SE
    • Cennydd Bowles (of Twitter and AListApart) offers Selecting (dead link)
    • Not everyone agrees
    • Microsoft isn't very clear either ("click or tap X") in their Win8 UX Guide (dead link)

    Thanks for the references Koen. They improve the question.

    fwiw inside the Android SDK the concept is generally referred to as click such as with an `OnClickListener` for a button.

    @FoamyGuy to play devils advocate, computers *defragment memory heaps*, but you won't see that in a general-user guide to the device.

    _Discombobulate the Z-axis of foo_

    If we made a portmanteau, would we use `Prick` or `Cless` or `Clickess` or `Preck`? Things I keep awake at night wondering...

    Click or TOUCH... Touching is gentle. Tapping is a harder blow. And they are touch screens not tap screens.

    So many answers, so little sublime...

    Coming from dev side, I think it's important to point out "click" ends after the mouse is released, and "tap" happens immediately. Users don't want a "tap-and-release" (touchend event), they want a tap (touchstart).

    @SephReed Except there's also "long touch"... to be able to distinguish that from "tap", you couldn't fire the event at the start of the tap.

  • rk.

    rk. Correct answer

    8 years ago

    If you feel like jumping the action (click/tap) you can directly say "Select" the ...

    Rather than a generic word, I would suggest you try to check what device the person is using and then say "click/tap" appropriate for the platform. But, then come the devices with both, a peripheral device and touch capability, which make this situation awkward-ish. You can still go with 'tap' since they are primarily touch (?) for interaction.

    Also, I think you can use 'click' universally, since if you keep the sounds on, most platforms play a 'click' sound when you tap/click on any icon.

    A lot of the time you are writing this in documents or instructions, so even if you wanted to show variations based on the device (which I wouldn't want), it often isn't possible.

    Agree with that, but, when people use help/get directions on the device, it would be a nice touch to do the customization.

    Select is a perfect answer in my opinion. What if we start blinking our eyes to select an option tomorrow (as in Project Glass)? Is it a click just because we mimic a clicking sound to give feedback of the selection?

    I was thinking about the voice input right now, 'click/tap to say' totally natural ;) On the click sound, I think it is a legacy feature, people had it on their computers since ages and they want to provide the same feedback on touch devices. I just prefer not having that feedback, nonetheless, it is a good feature to have.

    Disagree; select is ambiguous with other types of action. Ex Does "select start" mean click/tap something with the word start on it, or drag/swipe to highlight it to be copied onto the clipboard.

    @DanNeely It is contextual... if it is a button/link then it means to click/tap, if it is a text block it means highlight. The UI element will signify what it means.

    @rk if you're drinking the currently fashionable flat ui koolaide they all look the same.

    I like 'select' because it also accepts that some people might be using input devices other than mice/fingers; for example, a text-based web browser, or an older phone or game console with a WAP-style browser. Either way, cursor + select keys.

    @DanNeely Whatever you mean by the comment is beyond me. But, here's my koolaide recipe http://ux.stackexchange.com/questions/37868/minimalism-maximalism-or-whatever

    Select, to me, sounds strongly like choosing among options, as in a dropdown menu. But I agree, "click" has a more universal meaning. In this instance, "click" is a metaphor, perhaps a sort of skeuomorphism: you are either clicking the physical button of a mouse, or clicking the virtual button on the screen.

    @tajmo, I think that is an excellent point you make. We use the floppy icon for saving to any kind of media. Would it be so weird to use the 'click' metaphor even for voice control?

    "select is ambiguous" = it is, which is exactly why it's an appropriate term in this situation. The individual patterns should describe the specifics of tapping or tabbing or clicking or hitting return or what have you, but for general user flows 'select' is nicely input-device agnostic.

    @tajmo in most cases, when you select something on screen, you are selecting from amongst options--be it a pull down, a button, a menu item, etc.

    I've started using 'Select' recently over 'Click', to make the verb more platform agnostic.

    Yes, that's what I'm saying, @DA01.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM