Wednesday, May 05, 2021

On-Screen Keyboards ... Why, Oh Why? Just Why

A Short List of Reasons Why On-Screen Keyboards are The Worst



On-screen keyboards are the worst. We all know it but we all use them anyway, the result of going from using mainly laptops and desktops 10-12 years ago to mainly mobile devices today. God forbid you should be unable to reply to some Twitter hot take for a few hours! Better you should deal with a horrible interface that ruins your day with a low-quality user experience like 287 times a day. 

Here’s my short list of reasons why they are The Worst:

  • Keys are tiny - at least for my thumbs and maybe yours too. And ladies with long fingernails, how exactly do you make that work? Watch someone you don’t know personally using their phone to type furiously from across the room sometime — do they seem to be enjoying themselves? 
  • Spellcheck sucks — we all hate it, don’t we? Ever had it convert something into a sexual term without your realizing it until just after you hit “send”? This is not ideal. And because of (A), spellcheck gets used a lot more than it would with a regular keyboard. It’s quite the combo.
  • Using all your fingers is way faster — anyone disagree here? How could it not be faster, and therefore waste less of your time? One or two thumbs vs. all 10 fingers, this is not even close.
  • Typing should be a tactile experience — here’s where the rubber meets the road. Anyone who learned how to type on a real typewriter knows exactly what I mean. Or anyone who plays piano or any type of keyboard — the pressing of the keys, the feel of them, the amount of pressure it requires, using all of your fingers at a speed that feels right for you and allows the process of writing to flow organically and just “feels right”, these are all an important part of the writing (or keyboard playing) process. Our hands are meant to move things from here to there, to push and pull, etc — the experience of pushing tiny virtual keys on a small screen is nothing like that. It’s entirely foreign and weird and unsatisfying. It sucks, frankly. 
  • Your brain backs up with unexpressed thoughts — this is my own Wild Theory but this seems to be true for me. I don’t write as clearly using a phone or tablet on-screen keyboard as when using a real keyboard. Probably true for others, I suspect.

On-screen keyboards are worse in every way.

But “they’re convenient”, you say. Sure, they enable you to stay engaged with every app on your smartphone every waking hour of every day. 

Are you sure that’s a plus? That sounds like a big negative to me. Do you use your smartphone, or is your smartphone using you?