Touchscreen keyboards

When I got my iPad, one of the features I tested out what the on-screen keyboard. The on-screen keyboard means that I don’t have to carry an external keyboard and I can still use a keyboard for data entry – since I type much faster than I write, it is the most efficient way for me to keep notes on the device. The iPad Smart Cover allows me to setup the iPad at an angle the works quite well for typing. Still, it isn’t the same as typing on a keyboard, and I’m definitely not as fast (the predictive autocorrect also tends to slow me down, as it incorrectly autocorrects more often than not). Then I got my Android phone. One of the features that was enabled by default was keyboard feedback – that is, every time I touched a button on the keyboard the phone vibrated a little. I found the feature annoying and quickly disabled it (I could easily imagine my battery draining every time I typed something). I started reading a chapter in the Handbook of Human Factors in Web Design, on the “Physical Ergonomics and the Web” by Smith and Taveira (1). In it they say, “An interface that does not provide the typical compliances of force (including feedback), space, and timing of actions with their effects on the display will cause user errors, reduce user performance, and lead users to produce more foce than necessary to operate the device” (p. 54). The article also mentions the additional fatigue most users suffer when they use devices that don’t provide tactile feedback because the users press harder than necessary. This really got me thinking about the different touch screen keyboards. Is the reason I struggle with the iPad keyboard because it doesn’t provide any feedback? Am I pressing harder than necessary when I type? Did the folks who setup the Samsung Captivate configuration intentionally setup the default to give you that sense of feedback when you typed, so that you learned how much pressure was necessary? One thing this will definitely change about my behaviour is that I will be much more aware of how hard I’m pressing when I use the iPad keyboard (I usually use Swype on the Android, so I’m not “typing” and therefore this doesn’t really apply – although I think I’ll also need to see if I’m pressing harder than necessary when I Swype).


1. Smith, M. J., & Taveira, A. (2005). Physical ergonomics and the web. In R. W. Proctor & K.-P. L. Vu (Eds.), Handbook of human factors in web design (pp. 51-69). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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