How many taps in a URL

Since I’ve started using my mobile phone more often for web browsing I have become painfully aware of how many damn key presses it takes to enter some of my favorite URLs. It’s great that so many sites are offering stripped-down versions for quick mobile browsing, of course with the added expense of entering the URL. This sort of thinking led me to ask, how many taps does it take to get to a website?
Multi-tap is the method by which many mobile users interact with their phone. Each letter is entered by tapping a given key a number of times corresponding to the letter on that key. For instance, the letter ‘S’ would be entered by pressing the 7 key four times. I have developed a system to calculate the tappage for an arbitrary string. You can find it here:

http://overstated.net/projects/tap-calculator/

In addition to the standard tap semantics, I add an extra tap for each time a key is repeated. This is because a repeated key requires that you either press a forward button (painful), or wait for the letter to register (painfully long). Also, since the tap dynamics for symbols vary from phone to phone, I set ‘.’ to one tap and everything else to 4 taps. So of course everyone is asking at this point: who has the shortest URLs?

After playing with this (highly addictive) tool for a few hours, I find the results to be really non-intuitive; some short things are long, some long things are short. I guess this is yet another dimension to consider when you are looking for a domain name.

28 thoughts on “How many taps in a URL

  1. Pingback: How many taps in a URL | overstated at Fueled by Caffeine…

  2. This is why I insist on having some sort of smartphone in my life, with a nice qwerty keyboard. I don’t have the patience to browse the web or text message on a regular cell phone these days. I know there’s some kids out there who have the science memorized, but…I just refuse to learn. It will drive me nuts!

  3. Yes liz – smart phones or blackberries are definitely the answer. I read this post, though, what in the world is this strange person talking about? It doesn’t take that many taps for google?

    Then I realized it was ancient, pre-blackberry technology we’re talking about here. I wonder how many times cave men had to strike flint to start a fire…

  4. One of the phones I was looking at yesterday (a Samsung I believe) put the number at the end of the series for a given key (e.g. ‘2’ was 4 taps). I think this is the case for a lot of phones. Most Nokias and Sony-Ericcsons allow you to hold down a key which speeds things up.

  5. Interestingly unlocked phones that I have purchased from Europe have a significantly reduced wait time for the next character to be entered than branded American phones. TXT msging is has been popular in Europe for much longer than the US, they must have realized their users had become more adept at TXT msging

  6. I was going to suggest testing against the .mp domain as well, but it seems like that whole registrar is broken at the moment. (It debuted about 2 years ago).

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  9. Another issue entering text on a keypad occurs when you have consecutive letters on the same key. After tapping the first one you need to wait until the cursor appears before you can enter the next (rather than immediately typing the next letter if it occurs on another key).

    So that would be an interesting metric to track also. “Pauses” I guess you could call them.

    Entering “mmmm” (4 taps, 3 pauses) takes far longer than “mule” (8 taps, 0 pauses).

  10. I am accounting for the “pauses,” currently with an extra tap (assuming you’re hitting the “forward” or “next” button), but you could consider these costing much more in the grand scheme of things.

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  15. I once had the domain “mjg.md” registered because you could type it in only 6 presses with multi-tap and put a mobile tinyurl service on it that also made single keypress per letter urls. I was thinking that people might use those URLs for billboards and other real life ads to make them easy to type on mobile phones…

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