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I am currently working on a project on which I'm asked to design a virtual keyboard that would replace the default one when a user needs to fill a form on the mobile version of all our websites and even clients' websites. From what I've been told, the goal is to supposedly increase forms conversion by making the virtual keyboard easier to use than the built-in one.

Personally, I believe that it's totally wrong on a usability perspective because users already know the built-in virtual keyboard on their device and abruptly showing a different one would only confuse them. I also believe that it's not the input method that needs to be changed in order to boost conversion rate but the form itself.

Here is my question : can you direct me to some solid reference that backs up my claim that showing a different input method is totally wrong and won't increase the conversion rate at all?

Thanks in advance for the help.

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Not an answer because I can not point to concrete research, but I absolutely hate when some developer changes the expected behavior of the OS or device. Your companies change would push me away, not convert me. –  cdkMoose Nov 8 '13 at 20:38
    
What kind of alternative input methods do you imagine? Is it just that you want e.g. a numeric keypad for numbers, ad a date picker for dates? Or do you want to show a different type of keyboard (like swype)? –  oefe Nov 9 '13 at 15:55
    
The idea is to have a keyboard optimized for numbers, another one for email addresses, another one for URLs, phone numbers etc ... with specific layouts and some auto-completion features, all programmed in javascript which could cause instabilities issues compared to built-in keyboards which are browser independant. –  FranckInJapan Nov 9 '13 at 16:28
    
Let your users spend a day with a keyboard layout they are not accustomed to (e.g. Qwertz if they normally use Qwerty). After the day is over, ask them if they still think this is a good idea. –  Rumi P. Nov 11 '13 at 10:09

2 Answers 2

I'm failing to find any research reports that back this up but you could approach if from a familiarity angle.

Using a keyboard isn't an instinctive process - we have to learn how to use one efficiently. Most of us would have learned with a physical keyboard. With the move to smartphones and touch screens we have had to learn again, even though we're still essentially still using a keyboard.

The point I'm trying to make is that efficiency grows from familiarity - we learn how to use a certain touch keyboard because we get familiar with it and use it often. As an IOS user when I type using an Android handset there is a learning curve that I have to follow even though the keyboards are very similar.

Changing to something unfamiliar will re-introduce that learning curve and is sure to put people off. Particularly if your custom solution is less 'slick' or significantly different to what they are already used to. Even if you do make a great keyboard, users will still have to deal with learning how to use it instead of just filling in the form.

The best input method is the one the user is already using.

So I would base my argument around learning curves and links between efficiency and familiarity rather than specifically looking for research into alternate keyboards.

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Thanks! I totally agree with you concerning the learning curve. Too bad we can't find the research reports that prove it. –  FranckInJapan Nov 12 '13 at 1:43

I don't think any solid usability research was done in this matter, because it's just not something people do. You can approach discussion with the reasoning that a new keyboard that people are not used to might alienate or even scare users ("Will they be able to log what I type? That's not my usual keyboard.").

Only research I found so far is that in the only OS where custom keyboards are allowed, Android, a maximum of 8% of people have bothered to change their keyboard even when they can.

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Thanks for your thoughts! Do you have a link for this research? Also, I thought about a couple of ways to back up my claims : 1. Find the figures of the cost of R&D of inputs methods for every mobile OS in order to show my company that they can't compete with that even with the best effort. 2. Find statistics showing conversion rates on different websites and show the figures for every mobile OS. If no OS has a better conversion rate on all websites, it will clearly show that the input method has nothing to do with the conversion rate. –  FranckInJapan Nov 9 '13 at 16:12
    
Only thing I managed to locate is this non-scientific poll on iMore: imore.com/would-you-3rd-party-keyboards-ios and summing up downloads for the most popular third party keyboards on the Play store (the only OS that allows custom keyboards) –  Mariusz Nov 19 '13 at 10:53

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