Based on a recent experience with an Xbox, the dvorak keyboard and a decidedly odd French film I watched a while back in secondary school, here's my collection of ideas for enhanced minimal-control keyboards.
Standing for descending frequency of usage. At the most basic level, the keyboard should present a line of characters similar to the standard alphabet layout but starting with the most frequently occurring characters (roughly E, T, A, O, N, I, R) and continuing through to the end of the alphabet.
The user navigates around the list by using left and right directional arrows to move a selection cursor around the list. They confirm character selection of a character by pressing 'enter', 'return', 'ok' or some similar command, at which point the character is added to the end of the current input string.
In order for this layout to give maximum speedy usage, after each character is selected the pointer should return to the most frequently used character (in English, 'E').
There are a great many layers of intelligence that could be added to this basic idea. Some examples:
- Adding an extra dimension (down), containing the letters that, given the context, are most likely to be used next. Examples of this include:
- Letters most often used to begin a word
- Common pairs and duplicates e.g. 'ch', 'oo' and the like
- Adding another layer that guesses the word that is being typed -- Similar to the spell checker in Apple's iOS, which often suggests completions of long words when I'm only part way in. The key to this is to give the user an effortless way to accept/refuse these suggestions
- Alternatively, when a letter is selected, offer a UI for common letters coming after that letter in a grid, then the same for each letter after that.
Other thoughts/Potential Issues
- People are used to an alphabet listing and may find adjustment difficult. Only way to test would be to try it and see if it worked. I believe if the predictive features were made intuitive enough, it could be made effortless, 'though I don't trust Microsoft to do it at all well.
- What about space/numbers? On the Xbox, space is right at the end, which seems odd as its likely to be used far more than x or z.
- What about control characters like backspace?