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We're having a debate at the office. One of my developers is adamant in having the keyboard dismiss when there is any interaction with anything on screen that is not an input field. In other words should the user scroll, tap, or do any activity outside of a field which requires the keyboard means that the user is not meaning to interact with the keyboard. Therefore we should hide it.

I personally feel that this is unneeded, but I'm not sure where this stands from a UX standpoint. So the final question is:

Is having the keyboard dismissed with any interaction that is not an input view a standard UX practice or is this something to be concerned about.

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  • Question: under your scheme, how would the user dismiss the keyboard if it wasn't through defocusing the control via outside interaction?
    – tohster
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 18:04
  • @tohster In this particular instance, this is an iPad app. On the keyboard, there is already a button that dismisses the keyboard. Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 18:41
  • got it, thanks. I'd suggest adding that to the question so that the alternatives are clear.
    – tohster
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 18:44

2 Answers 2

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In most cases, dismissing the modal keyboard on a non-modal (or "click outside") tap provides a better user experience.

Here's why:

  • Slide-in keyboards are very intrusive. They occupy an enormous amount of the screen, even on tablets, and even if the form isn't occluded by the keyboard, user perceive a physical sense of intrusion when the keyboard shows up.

  • As a result, the keyboard is often perceived as a necessary evil. Users understand why it's necessary, but they still don't like it. That's compounded with user frustration over typing on small keys, so users don't have a positive perception of touchscreen keyboards to begin with.

  • Consequently, keyboard dismissal is something users look forward to.

  • Ergonomically, it's easier to click anywhere on screen than to find the tiny dismiss button on the keyboard. It's okay to have multiple ways to dismiss a keyboard. The non-modal area is far bigger than the tiny dismiss key, so Fitt's law shows why it's ergonomically easier to work with the bigger space.

  • On top of the ergonomics, clicking on the non-modal area is a desire path. After an input, users often want to reclaim their lost screen and "get back into flow", so a clear desire path to doing that is to just click on the screen.

Without seeing your specific interface it's impossible to tell whether some or all of these typical arguments will apply, but this should help you think through the tradeoff. Hope it helps.

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Consider yourself to be a very rich man. So rich that there's a fridge attendant in your house whose only role is to open and close the fridge:

A photo of a girl standing next to a fridge

You come home one day and approach the fridge, saying loudly "Oh, I'm starving". The attendant picks the cue and opens the fridge.

At this point you may pick something from inside. Regardless, you perform an action (like turning away) that clearly signifies that you are no longer interested in the fridge. And the question goes:

Should the attendant close the fridge?

As far as user task models go:

  • Click on a field
  • Interact with keyboard to enter a value
  • Click outside the keyboard when done

I cannot think of a single use case where anyone will perform an action outside the keyboard area (which 'blocks the view') and wish for the keyboard to remain there.

The keyboard is a contextual component showing on demand when the user taps an input field. Any action outside this area should signify that the keyboard is no longer needed.

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    Wait....there's a fridge in that picture?!?
    – tohster
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 23:28

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