Computer applications sometimes instruct the user to click a button to reach a desired action. What would be the correct replacement for click in the context of smartphones and tablets?

Touch and tap seem to be used interchangeably. Is one of these more correct over the other? How about push button y, does it make sense when applied to a touch screen?

2 Answers 2


I write applications for phones (occasionally) and when we're developing a game the only difference between the two is how long you want the user to hold the button down.

Touch doesn't have a time constraint, so if you want the user to just push a button on a screen, you probably want to tell them to touch it. But touch also can mean "longer than one second" because when people read tap they think they immediately let go after they touch it. Touch makes people hold down for a little longer than tap does. And then of course, hold would make you hold down the button longer than tap or touch.

Tap generally means you want a quick interaction. If you want the user to quickly release, you would tell them to tap.

Push is taken from the physical idea "push the button" but on a phone it's sort of irrelevant. It's used interchangeably with touch, but we have touch so I don't know why anyone would use it, really.

You can see this best in rhythm games (like Deemo or Cytus). You tap buttons to "dance" in those games, but you touch a song to choose it.


On a touch screen, I prefer instructions that tell me where to "tap".

"Push" does not transport the correct meaning. I push a pram or a wheelchair, but not a button on a touch screen.

  • I like your perspective and contribution from a user point of view when interacting with a device screen. 'Push' is rather ambiguous and could be interpreted or interchanged with a 'Drag' action. 'Touch' isn't descriptive enough either. Neither are precise descriptors without extra context or added words. Commented Nov 11, 2017 at 0:27

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