Why We Hate Swiping Keyboards

One of the biggest innovations in smartphone keyboards since the capacitive touchscreen is gestural typing. For those not familiar, keyboard apps like Swype let users drag their fingers from button to button without lifting their finger, essentially connecting keys in order to form the intended word.

As I watched Sywpe’s demo videos in anticipation for the official iOS release, I become eager to try it myself. Not only did it look smooth and easy, but it made sense: it drastically reduces the movement of your fingers when typing. While traditional keyboards, require 4 separate taps to spell out HELLO, a single continuous, seamless swipe is sufficient for swiping keyboards.

It sounds great on paper and it looks convenient on video but the reality is that the overwhelming majority of people don’t use them. Matter of fact, when I ask people as to their keyboard preference, most flat out hate it and few say it’s ok but prefer traditional keyboards.

While I haven’t conducted scientific research, my theory is:

Swipe-based keyboards add extra cognitive burden to the typing experience as they initiate you in a physical finger dance which forces you to plan your finger trajectory in advance as you spell out the word in your head. And if you take too long to connect the next letter in your word sequence, swiping keyboards will often error (although Microsoft’s Wordflow is pretty good at handling this.)

Swiping keyboard require you to think of the upcoming letters while you glide your finger on the screen. The 2 cognitive processes run simultaneously which burden our mind. While this may not be a significant cognitive increase for short words like “hey” it significantly increases for words like “ephemeral” or “indoctrination.”

This phenomenon of cognitively burdening the user is also experienced in an analogous computer interaction field: speech-as-input. I cannot count the number of times when I’m dictating to Siri, I pause for a second to think of my next word or phrase and I get cut off as Siri runs a search on my unfinished sentence. That’s because once again, the user is burdened with pre-planning an exact sentence before speaking. In reality, this is not how we naturally talk. We don’t have every word planned out for the remainder of every thought. We take pauses, we ponder, sometimes even stutter. We start a sentence before we know how we’re going to finish it, and that’s precisely why voice as input has never taken off the way Bill Gates swore it would.

Originally published at www.svilen.me on May 22, 2016.

Like what you read? Give Svilen a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.