Yesterday evening SwiftKey released a major update that adds new functionality giving more control of the keyboard layout to the user. This functionality had been in beta for a little while which I decided not to join (the first beta run by them that I haven’t joined since the first one way back in 2010) because the new functionality is not something I would use. I assumed that the addition of this new functionality would have no impact on my life. I was wrong.
SwiftKey got a number of things wrong with this update because their basic assumptions were wrong.
- They assumed that everyone changed the settings in the keyboard by using the shortcut on the keyboard and not via the app or the Android settings – wrong.
- They assumed that everyone knew about the shortcut on the keyboard – wrong.
- They assumed people would be OK to find that if they had modified the layout – within the constraints of what had been allowed in the previous version – that it would be OK to return some settings to default – wrong.
First of all I have never changed the layout of my keyboard since I set it up. I have had no desire to and I can’t really understand why anyone would want to – a variable layout on a keyboard strikes me, personally, as very counter productive. The few times I have wanted to tweak a setting (usually it’s the duration of the long press, to update the language packs, or to set up a new device) I have entered either through the app or the Android input settings – never through a keyboard shortcut that I didn’t even realize existed. This is all from my own, personal, experience using mobile input devices including the iOS keyboard, the built in keyboards on multiple Android devices, Swype, SwiftKey and others.
SwiftKey with this one change ruined my user experience to the point where I will be looking at alternate keyboard solutions for both my devices. And this could have been avoided simply by leaving access to the layout settings where they had been while adding access to the new feature. It wouldn’t have required a lot more work and they would end up with fewer frustrated customers. What frustrated me even more was that I had to hunt through the FAQs on their site since this feature is not mentioned on the landing page.
SwiftKey has lost a customer who, up until now, was extremely happy and has often recommended their app. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I’m not the only person dissatisfied with this update who goes to look for a new solution. And all because of a few invalid assumptions.