Mobile touch gestures have been a paradigm shift for user experience experts. They have revolutionised the way we can effortlessly manipulate computers in a relatable way. However, the danger we face with the potential of these gestures has grown significantly, as users become trained to standard actions that are performed - for example the pinch-to-zoom gesture. If you choose to implement the pinch gesture to, say, add an element to a list, then you risk alienating your users and diminishing the enhanced usability that gestures provide in the first place. Just like the real world actions they mimic, gestures are not designed to change in functionality between applications.
It has been a good seven years since gestures were first brought to the forefront of UX design in the mobile space. Since then, numerous informal gesture standards have been developed, from pinch to zoom, to natural scrolling, and the "swipe-to-the-right" gesture that is often used to go back or open a hamburger menu. And then we come to the interesting one that I really have come to like; dragging down from the top to refresh a page. I'm not sure where this gesture originated, but it's such a useful feature and even though it has no real world or physics-based counterpart, it feels natural. It's used on many different (social) applications now, from Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, email clients...the only one I can think of that I don't use on a regular basis, and doesn't support drag to refresh is Instagram.
This has been the standard for quite a long time, until Apple came along with iOS 7 and decided that, in fact, drag down is to open a search box and set the 'active context' to it (i.e. open a keyboard and ask the user to type). This gesture is included in the iOS home screen (Springboard); I thought having a page dedicated to Spotlight made sense, but apparently that cluttered the user interface more than this:
Now, as long as this feature doesn't become widespread, it's okay; it's unlikely to alienate users. But I'm going to be brutally honest: consumers can be dumb; they don't spend hours and days learning your interface - if it doesn't get found in the first five minutes, it's unlikely to be utilised. If we end up with a situation in which some apps may drag down to search and others drag-down-to-refresh, it's going to confuse people. Worse yet, when you have such inconsistency WITHIN an application - Facebook's Messenger app has drag-down-to-refresh on the messages page, but drag-down-to-search on the contacts page. Amazing.
It's a fact that users get confused easily, and UX designers really need to consider this before they implement the latest 'design trend', especially in terms of gestures. Aim for purity, for simplicity, and for meaningful design.