Research & insights about learning how to type on a keyboard

Published on Oct 14, 2019 by Sofie Hansson

Market analysis

In the project we have conducted a market analysis of existing typing tutor services. We looked at 20 different products to see how their strengths and weaknesses are especially for people who are visually impaired and use a screen reader or zoom to navigate in the digital world. We researched how the sound feedback worked in these services to see if there is something that already works to get inspiration from or why it doesn’t work. Our key findings were that almost all of the services was primary in english with a english keyboard layout and didn’t get enough sound feedback to be able to use the service if you are visually impaired because they don’t work with a screen reader as well. The services that was for kids usually relied on the visual feedback and there wasn’t a service that was free of charge that worked with enough sound feedback.

Design patterns

In our research we found some design patterns for learning how to write on a keyboard. In this project we will take inspiration from those patterns to be able to focus on what can be better.

Different typing tutor services print screen.

  • Introduction to the service.
  • Menu and settings to be able to choose exercise and other settings such as sound and language.
  • Practice mode were it’s possible to learn the basics of the keyboard.
  • Exercise mode where it’s possible to go step by step on the keyboard from beginner to advanced.
  • Feedback on results to be able to know how you did in an exercise, such as speed, amount of right letters etc.
  • Sound feedback that helps the user know what to do in the service, both instructions and sound effects.
  • Visual feedback where you can see the keyboard and where you pressed on the screen in combination with the letter or word the user should write.

Our conclusion of the market analysis we haven’t identified a solution that is free of charge, modern, fun to use and accessible for all different types of users both language and users with different abilities. We found that the balance between visual and sound feedback in the services often are not enough to work different target groups and our goal will be to find that solution.

Interview and testing with users

To be able to create a user centred product we wanted to meet users with a visual impairment early on in the project. Therefore we visited Unga med synnedsättning (Youths with visual impairment) youth center. There were 7 participants in the age range between 13-29 years old. All of the participants has a visual impairment and some also had a cognitive disabilities.

We interviewed them about their background to learning keyboards, what technical devices they use today and what games they like to play. We also let them test three typing tutorials that had enough sound feedback to get some information about what works well and what can be improved.

Sofie and Claudio at the youth center.
Claudio presenting in front of a group at the youth center.

The typing tutorials we tested was:

  • Tango touch - the most common way to learn how to type on a keyboard in sweden, often prescribed by the government. A lot of the youths learned how to type with this service.
  • Typio by Accessibyte - good sound feedback with levels and gamification, only for english keyboard layout.
  • Keyboard Crazy - No visual feedback at all and pure gamification, no focus on learning.

Findings interviews

The participants learn how to type on the keyboard around the age of 7-13. They learned with help from IT educators, school assistance people and parents. PC with the screen reader Jaws is the most common technical solution with a computer because it’s offered from the help center (syncentralen).

They use iPhone with voice over as their primary technical device. Many also use external bluetooth keyboard connected to their phones och ipads to write longer documents. To learn how to place the fingers on the keyboard many use stickers to put on the keyboard. Most of them use their phone to play games because it’s easy to use. The most popular games were quiz or word games. (This group is a little older than our target group and already know how to type).

Key findings testing

  • Sound feedback is always important, even in the menus and when there is new information. Give feedback if user seems to be inactive for a while.
  • Focus should be on the beginner levels because the ones the become advanced don’t have the same need for a learning service.
  • The exercises shouldn’t be too long rather have short and many.
  • Too many choices of levels, menus and settings is unnecessary.
  • Make the sound feedback close to screen reader feedback pattern.

Interviews with IT educators and pupil assistance resource

To get deeper knowledge about the challenges that occur when learning how to type on a keyboard we interviewed three people who has experience working with children that has a visual impairment. The IT educator works at an assistive technology help center and has taught a lot of visual impaired kids to type on a keyboard. He said that the main problem is that it’s boring to start learning how to press the right button and that creates a resistance to learning and interacting with the keyboard.

“There’s nothing as boring as only pressing a button at the keyboard.”

He said that learning without it being the primary focus instead doing something fun with the keyboard made the learning process much quicker and a more positive experience. His strategy was to have the kids first just press any buttons and they just made musical sounds, after that they could proceed to typing the right letters and words. A pupil assistance resource who works on a daily basis with a child who is visually imparied said that the resistance in learning where to put the fingers on the keyboard is because the student didn’t understand the value of it.

“I’ve learned how to type the letter A, why should I practice it more?”

When the student learned that it’s to be able to type faster he was more motivated. They also have started with putting stickers on the primary buttons to be able to navigate. Enter and arrow up and down to be able to navigate in documents and F and J to be able to type on the keyboard.

In summary from the interviews the key insights are:

  • Make the initial interaction with the keyboard more fun and don’t focus on right or wrong.
  • In general it’s boring to learn the keyboard, make it more fun and motivating.
  • Enter, arrow up and down to be able to navigate and F and J to be able to type on the keyboard are the starting keys when learning the keyboard.
  • Short exercises of maximum 10 minutes to keep the motivation going and have time to learn in daily life.

Key findings, target group and needs analysis

Children and youths that has a visual impairment dependent on the help center (syncentralen) to get the technical support to learn how to type on a keyboard. The ones that exist also cost money and therefore are dependent on government help to finance it. The technical choices may therefore be different to the needs of the children and different from their peers. Sometimes they are out to date and uninspiring, when learning progress faster when it’s fun. There is no product today that is modern, fun, has enough sound feedback and accessible for the swedish keyboard layout and for people with different abilities.

Learning to type on a keyboard for children with a visual impairment can be a bit of resistance because of the initial interaction with the keyboard focus on right or wrong. This is perceived as boring and needs a lot of support and motivation from people around. Learning without realising that is the goal, step by step with short exercise is the key to success.

Focus for this project should therefore be to get the children excited by interacting with the keyboard on a beginner level, because that where the main problems occur today. The more expert users don’t need the same support for learning the keyboard.

Target group

The biggest need for learning how to type on a keyboard is at the age 7-14 because that when students are expected to learn how to type for school assignments. The primary target groups are those with severe visual impairment and those that has some vision left. They usually use screen readers and zoom tools as assistive technology. We do hope that this product will help more people than this, but in the framework of this prototype we need to make sure it’s working for this group that needs it the most.

Needs analysis

Based on the findings in the research and to be able to create a user centred solution we created a needs analysis for the primary target group, children at the age 7-14 with a visual impairment.

  • The user has a need for an easy, fun interaction with the keyboard to get started and interested.
  • The user has need to learn where the keyboard buttons are without seeing.
  • The user has a need for learning step by step in their own speed.
  • The user has a need for rewards often with shorter exercise to keep being motivated.
  • The user has a need to learn the keyboard depending on sound exclusively.