Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fat Fingers (man) vs. Predictive Text (machine)

Thoughts on the usability of predictive text ...

"If you've ever seen the show "The Weakest Link" you're familiar with the "bank!" concept. In the game, they ask each player a question. Each correct answer builds onto a running total. When a contestant yells "bank" that total value is stored off the to the side and the counter is reset to zero dollars and they start to build again (more info). Of course if you don't "bank" it and you get the answer wrong, you start back at zero anyway with nothing saved. The idea is that you're chaining together correct ideas and every so often you have to say "yes, this is on the right track... lets save this progress" or gamble that you can get all the way though without stumbling.

This is how predictive text entering is supposed to work in my opinion. You start punching keys on your phone and every once in awhile you "bank" it by picking from a list to put the software on the right track. Of course, this takes time to pick and choose in the middle of typing.... so you could hope for the big payoff by just hammering out all the letters looking at the garbage on the screen until you get to the end and if you're lucky the software will end up with the permutation of letters that results in some form a legible, desired word. If not, you get garbage and you have to delete the word and start over again. You are the weakest link. Good-bye!

This is essentially how it worked on my Motorola phone. It wasn't perfect but I was very pleasantly surprised by it considering I was sharing three or four letters per key (T9). My new phone has a qwerty layout keyboard that has one key sharing two letters (pictured above) and a different kind of predictive software that I have heard good reviews about it on youtube and web forums...where the "users" are. (notable exception: David Pogue). I honestly expected based on the reviews and feedback and experience with Motorola's offering that I would rarely have to correct typing again. Sure-Type learns names and complex words as I go and I think it even scans the email I'm responding (don't quote me on that). It all sounds (and actually is) great. But I think it just might be a little too smart for me. The biggest stumbles all come from Sure-Type trying to assume what I'm thinking and it has caused me many more headaches than my junky old RAZR that I lament. It's a man vs. machine problem where the machine isn't always that great at figuring out what this man really means."    (Continued via User Centered)    [Usability Resources]

One Key Sharing Letters - Usability, User Interface Design

One Key Sharing Letters

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