Tuesday, December 21, 2010

W3C Mobile Web Best Practices and HAT-Based Mobile – Part 12

Four separate but closely related recommendations regarding any text entry…

5. [URIs] – Keep the URIs of site entry points short.

54. [MINIMIZE KEYSTROKES] – Keep the number of keystrokes to a minimum.

55. [AVOID FREE TEXT] – Avoid free text entry where possible.

56. [PROVIDE DETAULTS] – Provide pre-selected default values where possible.


The gist of these points is that it’s hard to type on a mobile device keyboard, whether real or virtual. Mobile device users text like mad so it’s certainly possible, but if you have big hands or are in unstable environments, you’re likely to have problems typing. This is true especially where accuracy is important, such as typing URLs as opposed to text. (Speaking from experience with my latest smartphone, a Samsung Captivate with a large virtual keyboard, I still have to tap the keys with a fingernail and watch what I type very carefully.)

What this suggests is eliminating any free text entry if possible, and minimizing the rest. More specifically, with regard to the four points above…

Minimize the length of any URI that viewers have to type. The W3C recommends setting up any target web sites so that viewers can access them without having to type a sub-domain as part of the URI. For example, rather than requiring users to type this:

http://www.example.org/index.html

Let them type:

http://example.org

The “www.’ portion isn’t hard, and many mobile device keyboards have pre-set “www.” keys anyway. It’s more the length of what follows the www, such as:

http://www.economist.com/node/17722664?story_id=17722664

One easy, albeit tedious step, is to run URLs through a URL compressor like TinyURL, www.tinyurl.com. For example, it compressed the long and hard-to-type URL above from 56 characters to 26, as shown below:

http://tinyurl.com/28hzyj6

It’s still no treat to type, but there less of it. And if you can replace the typing of URIs with pre-defined links, so much the better.

More to come…

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