Remember the days of Mattel Electronics hand-held baseball and Parker Brothers Merlin games that had simple analog buttons to interact with and a bunch of LED blips across a screen? Well, maybe you don’t but I learned how to manipulate those little dots and dashes across the screen with some pretty crude input devices and had hours of fun. Our idea of “controls” back then was limited to up, down, left and right, not much different than the upright traditional arcade games.

Fast forward to the future, where I’m watching my two year old twins unlocking my iPad, swiping the home screen a few times until they get to their Thomas the Tank or Hello Kitty game icons, then tap quickly and start playing. There was absolutely no hesitation learning Apple’s multi-touch gestures, it almost came naturally to both of them. Being that my wife and I are immersed in technology and design, we happen to have many devices around the house and it’s become very clear that the iPad has become the device of choice for my little ones. It’s more accessible, hand held and has no external peripherals to manipulate. On top of all that, Apple has done a good job of teaching all of us their Natural User Interface language (NUI).

A few weeks ago, my daughter was on my lap as I was checking email and surfing the web and she proceeded to lean forward in the chair, reached over to my computer monitor and tried to swipe the screen. After laughing for a few minutes I realized she was learning a whole new set of usability rules that would shape the way she interacted with devices forever, not just iPads.

With over 19 million iPads and 108 million iPhones sold worldwide to date, plus countless other tablets and smart phones flooding the market, its safe to say our way of interacting with devices has fundamentally shifted and is not likely to change anytime soon. All brands whether they are aware of it or not will need to adjust how their interfaces allow users to communicate with their products and services. The way your audience interacts with your digital products and the experiences they have as an outcome, become a big part of defining your brands identity.

“Multi-touch surfaces are becoming cheaper and more prevalent world-wide, the shift from click to swipe is happening and the way we think about design is changing as well”.

One area where we will start to see a cross over from the traditional click / tap to a more tactile user interface language is in the design of mobile websites. We will start to see designers and developers adding natural user interfaces to their websites as to create a more fluid browsing experience that suits the intended touch screen device. If you take a careful look you will start to notice that mobile websites are starting to look like mobile apps. This isn’t by chance, we are staring to learn what works and doesn’t work for application design and applying that to mobile websites. We will see this more with the development of HTML 5.0 and offline caching. A good example of this is YouTube. The YouTube mobile site looks, feels and acts like an app which adds a nice sense of continuity to the user experience.

The “Pinch and zoom generation” is growing up with a whole new set of tools, if brands want be relevant and grow with their audiences, they need to understand how these tools are emerging, know when and where to use them and how to add their own branded touch to them without adding complexity.