I have a pet peeve when it comes to filling out forms in a mobile app . On my iPhone, for example, when entering my email address on a log-in screen, I’m usually presented with the basic/default alphabetic keyboard. But then I have to switch keyboards to get the @ symbol, back to alphabetic to continue with “gmail”, back to symbols to get the period and back again to alphabetic to finish with “com”. If I had a number in my email address I’d have to switch yet again to get those. Sometimes programmers think ahead and use what I call the “email keyboard” which has the @ and period buttons among the alphabetic characters! Why doesn’t every programmer call up this keyboard when they know we’re entering an email address?!
Another example of this done correctly is the airline apps. When you check flight status, one option is to search by flight number. We all know these are going to be NUMBERS so there’s no sense in putting up the default alphabetic keyboard. I’ve found that several major airlines (JetBlue, Southwest, American, United and Delta) all correctly use the numeric keyboard, just numbers, large and clear. Well done!
In my experience the best example of doing this correctly is the Apple Contacts app on the iPhone or iPad. We’ve all entered a new contact but the team at Apple knows exactly what you need to enter and makes the task easier, for example:
- All entries for Name, Street and City has a capital letter first then lower case letters to follow because that’s how most of them are. Even when you get to a second or third word, such as, “Old Shore Road”, each word is automatically capitalized.
- Ahh, but when it comes to State, they know it’s a two letter abbreviation in all caps, so when you get to the State field, the Caps Lock is set. (I haven’t tried it but I wouldn’t be surprised that if your location was set to Canada, the postal code would automatically change to letter-number-letter-space-number-letter-number, properly capitalized, as is their format.)
- US ZIP codes and phone numbers are all numbers and, you guessed it, the keyboard changes to numerical.
- Email address. This is the big one I complained about at the beginning of this article. There is a keyboard variation that shows the @ and period as buttons on the main alphabetic keyboard and Apple presents that special keyboard for email addresses.
- URLs. The keyboard changes yet again when entering a web address by adding keyboard buttons for the period, forward slash and “.com”, which are common and convenient.
Frankly I feel that the programmer is actually saying “you’re welcome, I thought this would help”, or conversely, “I can’t be bothered to give you the correct keyboard, I’m in a hurry and lazy.” This is a very fixable problem. So I call out to any and every mobile app programmer to pay attention to the little things that make our connected life easier. Don’t ignore the tools in your bag that make your app remarkable in a simple way. WWJD? (as in Jobs).