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I'm creating a step-by-step chart which specifies to users that we suggest them to be on a desktop (or laptop) to properly use our system. It's a web browser system, and it uses extensive text input, which can be annoying on a touch device.

I've been thinking if the step below is clear enough to users (even those not familiar with computers) understand that they can use a laptop, not just a desktop.

  1. In your computer with Internet Connection

The chart has icons on each step, does creating a "Laptop on the table" image make it clear?

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    You do realise that it doesn't matter how clear and friendly the message is, if someone visits on a tablet and is told the site won't work for them on such a device that they are going to dislike the site/product as a result? By not being able to serve up the product on the device the user is currently on you are therefore providing a negative user experience. No amount of clear messaging or iconography is going to stop that.
    – JonW
    Sep 30, 2014 at 11:02
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    In that case I'd say something like "Since you will need to enter longer texts, we recommend using a device with a physical keyboard". Sep 30, 2014 at 12:22
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    I once worked on an insurance company website. People could read about, and apply for quotes. The company stated that they didn't think people on a mobile would fill in whole life insurance quotes via on-screen keyboard so asked we replace that option with a phonenumber for them to call. However the analytics told a different story. A significant proportion of mobile users were activating and completing insurance quotes (unoptimized for mobile) so we changed the site to route these users through and worked on improving the UX for these users. You'd be surprised what people do on a mobile.
    – JonW
    Sep 30, 2014 at 14:18
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    Agree with @CodesInChaos; I have a bluetooth keyboard for my tablet, which works perfectly fine for filling out forms. I would be quite annoyed if I were to try using my tablet+keyboard and was directed to my desktop "just because".
    – Brian S
    Sep 30, 2014 at 15:37
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    Not everyone who uses tablets is annoyed by typing on them. Sep 30, 2014 at 17:42

2 Answers 2

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I think your specification is already misguided:

that they MUST be on a desktop (or laptop) to properly use the system

Such classifications aren't what you actually care about. What matters are specific properties that make your site work well with the device or work badly/not at all.

If the properties are understandable for the end user, I'd mention them. For example it could be:

  • You only support a specific operating system or browser
  • The size of the screen needs to be big enough
  • You don't support touch devices.

I also recommend giving a short reason for why that's a problem, else the user might simply assume you're incompetent.


From your comments I gather that your website actually works on tablets and mobile devices, but the extensive text input can be annoying on a touch device.

This means that:

  1. You should talk about input methods (keyboard, mouse), not the form factor of the computer.

  2. You should phrase this as a recommendation, not as a requirement.

  3. You should mention that you recommend this because there is a lot of text to type, so the user can make an informed choice to continue if they're fine with entering a lot of text.

    Perhaps they have a tablet with an external keyboard where typing is easy, perhaps they're happy to type longer messages on a touch screen or perhaps they don't even own a proper computer at all.

I'd phrase it something like:

We recommend using a physical keyboard instead of a touch device since you will need to enter and edit longer texts.

As an icon you could use a keyboard.

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  • Thank you CodesInChaos, that's exactly the point I couldn't figure out alone. I did edit my question correcting that the website does work in mobile but it won't be good to use it there.
    – Carbon
    Sep 30, 2014 at 13:42
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    I would add that, given the prevalence of autocomplete, swipe entry, and other innovations in mobile typing, for some people it's really not that hard to enter a lot of text on an on-screen keyboard. I could even imagine that some kids who have grown up frequently texting might find it easier than typing on a physical keyboard. (I don't know if this is the case, but I could imagine.) The point is, even the assumption that using a touch device will be more difficult is worth carefully considering.
    – David Z
    Sep 30, 2014 at 18:47
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    phones/tablets can have a bluetooth keyboard
    – JamesRyan
    Oct 1, 2014 at 10:09
  • I like that, however I think the messaging for "You're going to do a lot of typing" is unnecessary. People type and interact a lot on mobile (Facebook, twitter, blogs, tumblr, etc). People do a lot of typing as is on the internet. Maybe not huge chunks at once, but as long as the ability to type long chunks, with a save features, should be sufficient.
    – Majo0od
    Oct 1, 2014 at 10:59
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    @DavidZ No need to imagine; there are kids who grew up on T9 texting(!) whose words-per-minute are on-par with their keyboard usage. Ones who grew up on "smart" keyboards available on touch devices might even reach speeds you can't do on a physical keyboard due to word prediction.
    – Izkata
    Oct 1, 2014 at 16:51
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If the main issue is amount of text entered, suggest that a physical keyboard would be helpful... many tablet users have blutooth keyboards (or wired even) these days. Other users use voice input extensively. However with Swype and/or predictive input many people can type as fast on a virtual keyboard as a real one. In fact people who normally Hunt & Peck on a desktop keyboard may often be faster using a tablet since that is their primary means of interacting with the internet.

I would just give people a one-time notification that they will be putting in a lot of information and it might be more difficult on a virtual keyboard. Maybe even to drive the point home have a pop up like below, where they have to type something to proceed.

Example Challange

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    Not too fond of your example dialog. That's the kind of prompt I'd expect for irreversibly erasing my hard disk, not for something harmless like this. It's also much too verbose. Sep 30, 2014 at 14:26
  • True! It could definitely use some work, but as it was an example, and I don't know the specifics of @Patrick's site, I didn't feel it worthwhile to spend a lot of time on making the dialog super perfect, since he'll likely have to revise it to fit no matter how snappy I make it.
    – aslum
    Sep 30, 2014 at 15:27
  • Nice example @aslum, it's an interesting idea to explore. Challenging the user to make something simple as type 'Got It' and simultaneosly make understand that the program suggests keyboard is briliant. Thanks!
    – Carbon
    Sep 30, 2014 at 16:00
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    This looks just like an extra barrier to your users. It's off-putting in its own rights but also gives the impression of an annoying site that will put up extra hassle just for those users who have the hardest interaction anyway.
    – Chris H
    Oct 1, 2014 at 9:16

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