The more reading I do for Windows Phone 7 is the more I realize how ill prepared a Windows or Web developer is for general phone development. Whether it is the consideration of the RAM, CPU or in this case, user input, there are several design and usability considerations that must be accounted for. For this brief post I would like to consider simple user input via soft keys i.e. via touch screen.

One of the things to consider when designing apps for a phone is the fact that user input is limited in that a real qwerty or hardware keyboard may or may not be available. It becomes really important to first of all avoid any type of unnecessary typing, while I am sure some of us are up to 30 word per min on cell phones, we should assume that text input is probably the worst part of the user experience. With that said there are some very helpful ways we can assist with soft keyboards.

By default when a text box is selected a qwerty keyboard (sans numbers and special characters) is displayed, and in order to get to the digits an additional button needs to be pressed. A very helpful option is to give the text box a hint to the type of data that is being input. For example if we are filling out zip code (US postal code) we expect that this will be digits only and so we can use the TextBox.InputScope tag which when configured will display a keyboard that has the digits displayed. For example:

    
        
            
                
            
        
    

Displays this keyboard:

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Also if you are filling out an email address you can pull up a keyboard that prominently features the @ symbol and a “.com” key for easy email completion (I wonder if that is configurable by region?).

    
        
            
        
    

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There are several other options for address, phone numbers, date, smtp, chat etc. Take advantage of the various keyboard options your app your users will thank you.