When designing mobile interfaces, one of the most crucial aspects is how responsive the interface is for the user. Take a keyboard interface, for example. When users complain about mobile keyboard interfaces, they usually talk about the size—or the lack of it. Text input is one of the most frustrating things that a mobile user goes through. Text may appear too small, autocorrect is always on, or the auto orientation takes a long time to engage. Most people get irritated enough that they stop using the app altogether, which spells doom for the business.
Intuitive interaction is the most tried and tested concept that developers use for creating good mobile design. This involves an interface that's easy to understand and use, where the design allows users to effortlessly find their way around and access all options. The app should also be aesthetically pleasing by making the app attractive for the user. However, make sure that you always combine aesthetics with functionality, as users won't support a beautifully-designed app if it doesn’t work across all platforms.
Another factor is speed. These days, being fast is one of the requirements of a good app. The user should be able to utilize the app quickly, without cutting down functionality when imported to mobile from the desktop or Web version.
With a mobile keyboard as one of the components of a good app, how can you design your mobile keyboard interface such that it combines both unencumbered functionality and a satisfying interface experience?
- Orientation. Be mindful of orientation. While some mobile devices these days still have physical keyboards, most smart devices make use of touchscreens that make use of a landscape mode. Make your design versatile enough so that it both supports landscape and portrait orientation, and take advantage of the auto-rotate feature that is common to most devices. This way, different users who prefer to type on any orientation can input text any way they want.
- Automation. Know when to turn auto features off. When field forms require email addresses, the auto fill feature can be handy. The same applies when the app has a couple of number-specific text entries. However, it would be nifty to include a reminder for auto features such as autocorrect and predictive text, which allow users to either enable or disable them. Users who encounter auto correct when typing in username and password fields tend to get flustered when corrections become automatic, as this requires them to delete and reenter the information again.
- The Right Keyboard. Apply the right keyboard. Not every form field requires text input. You should make sure that your keyboard design is smart enough that it can automatically alter itself depending on the form field that the user currently opens. For example, you can design an all-numbers keyboard when users have to type in a field such as one that requires a phone number. For email fields, you can also create an alpha-numeric keyboard with the ‘@’ and ‘.com’ buttons displayed prominently for Web and email addresses.
Typing is easy when you do it on a desktop, but it becomes a challenge when you have to do it on a mobile device. As a developer, put yourself in your user’s shoes when designing and testing your mobile app, and come up with an optimized keyboard interface that's easy to use.