I am building the following iPad UI, and it includes a "tap-to-edit" feature:

Tap to edit text

I personally like this type of UX - I like UIs where a user can interact directly with a document. However, I'm concerned that users who are less familiar with common touchscreen gestures will not be able to tell just by looking at the screen that they are indeed able to tap on that particular area of text to edit it.

Assuming "tap-to-edit" is good UX, I think there are three ways that I can "teach" my users about this feature:

  1. When a user creates a new document, have that text area set to some placeholder that indicates you can tap on the text to edit it (i.e., "Tap on this text to edit it").
  2. When a user creates a new document for the very first time, popup some sort of tip that will fade away that indicates they can tap the text to edit it.
  3. Include a "help" button somewhere on the top toolbar that, when pressed, would display a translucent help "infographic" that would highlight allowed user interactions on the screen.

What do you guys think? Should I ditch the tap-to-edit feature altogether, or should I go with one of the above options? (I should mention, option #1 is my favorite option so far - but I'm not convinced).

  • 3
    Take a look at how popular apps like Pages do this. I've seen dotted lines used to indicate that a heading is editable for example
    – Ben Brocka
    Jan 1, 2012 at 18:04
  • How many inputs do you have at any one time? If it's only one I have a cheap solution.
    – Knu
    Jan 1, 2012 at 22:08
  • @BenBrocka I am somewhat modeling this after Pages - I'll definitely consider that, I like that.
    – Rob
    Jan 1, 2012 at 22:27
  • @Knu should be only 1 input at a time. What is your suggestion?
    – Rob
    Jan 1, 2012 at 22:28

2 Answers 2


What's wrong with doing all 3 ?! I am strong fan of appealing to different kinds of intuitions when guiding people.

  • I didn't think about that. I see no reason why not - I think the extra work is worth it, in terms of users being comfortable with/understanding how to use the product!
    – Rob
    Jan 1, 2012 at 16:32
  • 1
    Perhaps more important to note is that none of the 3 provide particularly much annoyance to the user; at worst you present a useless "click to edit" message once to a user who already gets it.
    – Ben Brocka
    Jan 1, 2012 at 18:05
  • @BenBrocka that is a very good point. I certainly do no t mind when software (quietly) reminds me how to do something - in fact, StackExchange does so quite frequently, but I never really consider it to be too annoying.
    – Rob
    Jan 1, 2012 at 22:29

If I were you Id just add a (fake) blinking caret (vertical bar or underscore) after the editable text the first 5 times it's displayed (per user).
It will be immediately obvious and noticed. Of course it must be avoided if there are multiple inputs at once: you can't have multiple inputs focused (unless you want to type simultaneously the same text on all inputs).

That also means that if that input comes after the fold, you will have to wait until it comes into view for it to be focused. The technical aspect would be off topic […]. In short on an iPad it won't be a problem since the keyboard won't show up until they tap: they can't start typing right away when they see the |.

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