Typing on a Tablet

Over the past two weeks I’ve used just my phone or a tablet to hammer out the blog posts published on this site. It’s not unusual for me to type a shorter item on the phone, but I’ve generally avoided using a tablet as I’ve not had a decent device capable of keeping up with my single-hand typing speed until November. Before then, I used an Android-powered Lenovo Tab3 Pro, where “Pro” must be short for “early prototype” as there is no logical reason for why an 8-core device with 3GB RAM cannot keep up with a person typing. Now that I have a tablet that is more up to the task of data entry, I wanted to see how people might blog with one.

While teaching at the day job, we generally used iPads to record lesson information between classes. This works well enough, as the data entry is generally minimal and designed with efficiency in mind. Writing with the intention of publishing to a medium, however, is usually a little different. People approach the task with a different set of requirements and expectations. Fortunately this has helped me see that there are some realities that I need to consider when designing web forms in the future.

WYSIWYG is a PITA

Selecting a single word is generally fine. Selecting a specific range of text in order to format it, however, leaves much to be desired. The JavaScript libraries that some sites employ can make this seemingly simple task jarring and infuriating, I need to keep this in mind to ensure text can be easily selected for whatever reasons a person may have. Formatting options should also appear automatically, and natively, when text is selected.

Editing Images Is No Fun

Many of my posts include an image. When there is no image, it’s because the post was written on a mobile device where getting the right image at the right size is too much of a hassle. There needs to be a better way to do this, ideally from within the same interface as used to upload the image.

One Finger

Despite the power that phones and tablets have received in the last five years, many of these devices are unable to handle more than one finger of input1 at a time. As this drastically slows down how quickly a person might type, it’s important to find ways to simplify processes where people will be expected to provide character-based input.

Portrait. Not Landscape.

This one I’ve known and worked with for a while, but it’s always good to remember that people using mobile devices will generally use them in a portrait orientation. People using notebooks and desktops will be using landscape. Buttons and text areas should arrange themselves in order of process or priority for the screen and the person using it, not the other way around.

The tools we use in tablets have come a long way since they really caught on six or seven years ago. There is still more work to be done, though.


  1. Multi-finger gestures do technically count as input, but the focus of the point is on text entry.