What is Easy on a Laptop is Hard on a Touchscreen
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Categories: Modern, Not an expert

What is Easy on a Laptop is Hard on a Touchscreen

I have said this now and then and some people find it helpful, so here it is!

People behave differently on the post-2008 Internet than before because most of them are on smartphones or pads not laptops or desktops. For example, its hard to copy and paste blocks of text on a touchscreen, but usually easy to make screenshots, so people move things from one site to another as screenshots. Its hard to jump precisely around a text and type punctuation marks, so its hard to enter bbcode. Its easy to scroll, so sites designed for smartphones often have an infinite scroll. Its easy to pull out a smartphone in breaks from other activities, so people visiting the Internet on a smartphone are often in a hurry. People do more of what their tools encourage (affordances) and less of what their tools discourage.

Some people blame changes in online behaviour on corporate social media built around psychological tricks. Other people blame it on Eternal September and regression to the mean (although the Internet and social media still has its rowdy teenagers, its understimulated older guys, and its cranks and radicals and prosetylizers). I think another major cause is that interactive sites designed for people with a keyboard are hard to use with just a little touch screen (and vice versa). And as we try to build things that won’t go wrong in the same ways that corporate social media went wrong, I think its worth keeping in mind that our devices shape what we do on the Internet.

(scheduled 13 February 2023)

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