Appszoom for Developers

Interview With David Eberle, WRIO Keyboard Mobile Dev

Posted by on 12/04/2015



Building a better keyboard on mobile is a gargantuan challenge. Heck, inputting complex messages to transmit to another human being across the ether using only your thumbs would have been totally unthinkable just a handful of years ago. Updating the tool we use to do it to make communication harder, better, faster, and stronger is no small potatoes.

The WRIO Keyboard team is one of our favorite contenders in the race to design the next generation of mobile keyboards. With the backing of a huge Kickstarter community, they’ve done deep research on how people communicate over mobile, and have put together a better keyboard “for fast, precise, intelligent writing.” Big keys optimized for thumbs plus smart gestures make all the difference, and there’s a special emphasis in catering to users who swap between more than one language.

WRIO is due onto the app stores this coming Spring 2016. While we wait for the big launch, we were lucky enough to score an interview with David Eberle, WRIO Keyboard developer. We talked crowdfunding, user testing, and those eye-catching double space keys.

 Last week’s interview: Folmer Kelly, Dev Of Wrassling (Sets & Settings)

Appszoom: How was your experience of running a successful Kickstarter? How did you decide on the crowdfunding model in the first place?

David Eberle: We decided to go on Kickstarter for two reasons. First, we needed funding to continue with the development beyond a first prototype. Crowdfunding seemed a good place to do that.

Second, we wanted to see whether there was genuine interest from users in our product. We’ve realized that a Kickstarter campaign requires a lot of preparation and engagement during the campaign. What made the difference is that we received good media coverage, especially in Switzerland; that helped us get a lot of backers.

AZ: How did you recognize the need for a better keyboard?

DE: We have been interested in product usability since many years from different angles. In his previous job as a journalist for PCtipp, a former Swiss IDG magazine, Janis tested and reviewed hundreds of technology products. David works as a management consultant. We are both extreme writers of emails on mobile devices, and we are totally fed up with the usability. That’s when we thought that there had to be a better solution on modern touch devices.

Berny and I both work a lot remotely in our jobs, and therefore write a large chunks of our emails on the go. It’s always a big hassle. We felt it was extremely slow, we made a lot of typing errors, and the auto correction often makes changes to the worse.

One Sunday morning, Berny and I discussed the topic over Brunch (it was sometime in February, snowy outside, so what better to do than to discuss tech?), and he mentioned that the current keyboard was over 140 years old. I found that unacceptable, that nothing has really changed since, and we became convinced that there had to be a better solution.

To be sure though, we started our journey with the survey, where ~73% confirmed our experiences, plus gave us the inspiration of features we should implement first (e.g. large keys).

AZ: What kind of user testing have you done to create a better WRIO? Did you go through any other iterations of “a better keyboard” before settling on this one?

DE: It was really design question. Keys can either be square or round (if you discard triangles or any other unsuitable shape). Since fingertips are round, the optimal key shape for touch devices should be round as well. Technically this results in hexagons.

Another condition was that the keyboard doesn’t take up more space than the current one. Maximizing key sizes given these conditions resulted in WRIO.

We then thought what keys can be removed and replaced by gestures (shift, backspace, replacing the space bar by keys) to further save space and increase key sizes.