I wonder if the gel itself makes a difference on application. I use Paul Mitchell Super Sculpting Gel and Styling Glaze mixed together. They are not hard gels, but I don't use them on soaking wet hair, as I don't like the sensation and feel that more falls off my hair than goes on. It also takes too long to dry if I put gel on soaking wet hair.
My normal routine - I wrap my head in a towel long enough to get out of the shower and dry off. Then I comb through my leave-in conditioner (Abba Nourishing). Then I apply my gel mix in 3 sections - top, middle, ends. I smoosh, scrunch, rake, twist, whatever it takes to get it all through my hair (my hair is thick, so it take a bit of manipulation to get all layers covered). Then I comb through and finish styling.
3b/c normally, 3a/b in the winter