Scott Jenson explains his research into mobile text editing at Google, detailing how editing on mobile devices is surprisingly difficult and error-prone due to how mobile interfaces copied the desktop metaphor of cursor positioning and text selection without a mouse or menu bar.

This issue forces imprecise tapping gestures, overloaded with different functions like cursor placement, selection, and menu access. Jenson conducted a study confirming these issues and then created a prototype called Eloquent that reimagines mobile text editing with improved cursor control through dragging, a new "drag press" gesture for text selection, and streamlined menus. In short, he demonstrates a potential solution to this "invisible problem" of poor mobile text editing experiences.

Key points:

  • Android and iOS copied desktop text editing without a mouse, overloading tap gestures for multiple actions

  • Users frequently make mistakes with cursor positioning, selection, clipboard usage

  • Text editing was considered "good enough" so little research was done to improve it

The Eloquent Prototype Solution

  • Simplified cursor placement, treating all taps as drags

  • Magnifier visualization over the cursor

  • "Drag press" gesture for text selection

  • Combined gestures for selecting text and accessing menus

  • Animations to reinforce and teach the new interaction model

eloquent-drag.gif
Magnifier drag animations

Highlights:

With the extremely talented Olivier Bau, together we created a prototype called Eloquent, which offers a much simpler solution.

Text editing on mobile was considered 'good enough.' Since people weren’t complaining, there was little motivation to improve it.

Curated

8th May 2024

Tags

Editor
editing
responsive design
UX

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