Great post by user experience engineer Eliz Kılıç on the discoverability problem with 3D Touch on iOS, and a suggestion on how to fix it:
What would happen if we decide to make all links same color and style as the regular text? People would not know what to click on right? Why is 3D Touch be any different? We rely on our vision to decide actionability before anything else. If you can’t distinguish 3D Touchable buttons from those that are not, how are you supposed to know you can press on them?
3D Touch is an interesting idea, and it does help add a dimension to some aspects of iOS, but it remains problematic four years after its introduction. Not only, as Kılıç points out, is it hard to discover, but it’s hard to demo to less tech savvy folks (“No, don’t tap, press. Press harder. Harder. But then hold it!”).
It’s also still not distributed across iOS devices: the iPad line still lacks it, which means that it hasn’t become ingrained in people’s use.
Furthermore, I think that some of the uses of 3D Touch are poorly executed. In particular, peeking and popping used as a way to preview content rarely saves you time over actually tapping into content—particularly when the content you are previewing is a URL that then has to load, leaving you holding your finger pressed on the device, trapped, while it continues to load. Because if you let go while it’s still loading, then you need to tap on it again, so you’ve ended up losing time instead of saving time. This is a bad interaction.
Where I do think 3D Touch works is in making certain actions more convenient. For me, the gold standard is in the Music app—yes, I know! Surprising!—where you can press on a song to bring up a contextual menu that lets you do things like add it to your Up Next queue. It saves time and it makes sense, especially to anybody who’s used a contextual menu on the Mac.
But none of that matters if people can’t figure out where 3D Touch is usable without having to rely on trial and error, and that’s where Kılıç’s suggestion of having a visual cue for the feature makes a lot of sense.