DISCLAIMER: Droid fanboy.
The case at hand.
I Love my Droid. Is it as sexy as an iPhone? Nah. Does it have as many apps as an iPhone? Not yet. But it will soon — and with an open source platform like Android, the possibilities are endless.
But this little post isn't about Droid vs. iPhone. It's just a quick usability case study. Droid/Android is extremely intuitive and user friendly for the most part…except for one minor area — The "Closed Phone Portrait View Touchscreen Keyboard" (not the full QWERTY slide-out one). This is the view you get when you type a text message with the phone "closed" and hold it vertically — the standard for one-hand phone use.
See below. *Sorry about the fingerprints.
We've got issues.
Now what's wrong with this picture? Well a couple things, but here is my biggest pet peeve. An Emoticon Smiley Face?!? As a default? Are we really trying to encourage people to use those things? But it's not so much the smiley face that is bugging me, it's the fact that an emoticon beat out a question mark for such prime real estate. I would say at least 50% of my text messages are short questions, but in order to add a "?" to a text I have to now tap the "Numbers/Symbols" button and open another screen to select a "?" . And yet there is a big, fat, juicy ":-)" button right there on the "homepage" keypad. I would guestimate only 3-7% of my text messages are ":-)" necessary. So can I please have a question mark button as a default instead of a ":-)" ? It would help save much frustration.
Oh yeah, while I'm asking for things I would like a comma, and a "move cursor" button — to easily navigate through message text.
Anyway, I spent ten minutes and mocked this up — my ideal "Closed Phone Portrait View Touchpad Homescreen".
I had to shorten up the "space bar" but not a big deal, as long as it is still significantly bigger than the other buttons, I think it is still just as functional. And the added comma, question mark and backspace key more than make up for it in my opinion. To be fair, the slide out keypad addresses many of these issues, but that one is too hard to use one-handed while you are driving down the road at 90mph.
Just kidding, it's a really bad idea to text and drive simultaneously. But we all use our phones one-handed most of the time, so I thought this would be an easy way to make the one-handed Droid experience a little easier.
And we won't be encouraging the use of emoticons anymore.
As is bound to happen when writing a blog post about something – you are guaranteed to get called out for missing something obvious…The Droid does indeed have a long-press function, so when you hold down on the "period" – you can get a full menu of punctuation. Why myself, or any of the other Droid users I interviewed had no idea about this function – well that's a whole other post.
Still not sure why the emoticon button is so much larger, more obvious than the punctuation button.
*Bonus – long-press on the emoticon gets you a menu of 16 or so emoticons!