Apple Has a Focus Problem
Luke Kanies

Lack of focus, or lack of focus on the keyboard?

When I read your article, the first time, I was not surprised at focus on the keyboard. I think for many of us, the touch-first paradigm that iPad forwards is something of an anomaly. We are being asked to unlearn what had been (more or less) taught as dogma: fine-motor control, using our hands and fingers, is best through a meditated tool

I’m one of those who has moved to using the iPad as a primary (honestly, only) productivity computing device. And yes, there are things which seem to be easier when using the keyboard. However, the designer-in-me also sees that as something of a cop-out for those developing for the platform. Touch-based interfaces aren’t easy. We don’t touch in the same way we point/type. There’s friction, pace, speed, pressure, etc. which are innate to touching, not necessary to mediated-driving.

A second read hears you a bit differently. Almost as if you are asking for Apple to (themselves) figure out what the focus needs to be. If its going to be on touch-then-mediated input (Pencil, Smart Keyboard), then the core interactions need to align with it. If you will, keyboard shortcuts should not be easier than pressure-induced submenus. Or, pushing forward in the base UI: multi-finger gestures should also spawn multi-hand and syncopated-touch gestures. In a very literal sense, a second read of your article feels like you are saying Apple hasn’t focused enough on the touch/gesture nature of iOS, and it should if it wants to protect this perspective that it is an applicable future platform for computing productivity.

I come back to our perspective however. You and I came from a keyboard/mouse computing paradigm. What we understand as efficient comes from the knowledge of another way of doing things — a way that was efficient compared to the methods which had come before it. I think persons such as my six-year-old niece would think about this differently. Keyboards she can use, but touching/gesturing she knows intuitively. Her perspective about what is efficient, versus what is a chore, no matter how many keyboard shortcuts we have, are likely a more accurate perspective as to what we might expect of this platform and others going forward. That said, you and I sit in the same generation as those designing this. We have a responsibility to not only speak towards our angst with things in this transition state, but also speak to how it could be designed better. That might mean going to the uncomfortable forward, rather than refining the known past.

I’d love to see design and development be done full-circle on an iPad. I think then we’d have some weight behind this conversation. We can sketch, we can prototype, but compiling, testing, and deploying aren’t here. Those tools exist only with those platforms to which keyboards are a better, faster, innate means to get those items done. When that changes perhaps we’ll see the platform focuses change. If that changes, we’ll also likely see things designed and used that we can’t imagine clearly now. It will be a focus issues then too, but only because our eyes will have aged out of an ability to see it clearly too.