Chinese character entry for mobile phones: A longitudinal investigation

Min Lin, Andrew Sears

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The increasing popularity of Short Message Services (SMS) in China highlights the need for effective and efficient methods for entering Chinese text on mobile phones. While stroke-based methods have potential advantages over pronunciation-based solutions, usability issues have limited the effectiveness of existing stroke-based methods. One significant usability challenge has been the ambiguous stroke-to-key mapping rules that are typically employed. We proposed a new solution that employs a combination of abstract symbols and example strokes to help users map strokes to keys more effectively. A longitudinal experiment was used to evaluate character entry performance using both objective and subjective measures for our new design as well as the existing solution. The results confirmed that a new design allows for improved performance as well as higher satisfaction levels as compared to the original design. Further, after approximately 1 h of experience with the stroke-based method, novices were able to enter Chinese text at speeds comparable to that observed with the pronunciation-based Pinyin method. Results showed that the new design provided users with a better understanding of the system throughout the study, beginning with their first exposure to the keypad. By utilizing a combination of abstract representations and concrete examples of the available strokes, the new design reduced the ambiguity that typically exists regarding stroke-to-key mappings. In this way, usability was improved without any changes to the underlying technologies. Our results demonstrate that stroke-based solutions for Chinese character entry can be effective alternatives for mobile phones, providing an effective alternative for the many individuals who can write Chinese but do not speak the Mandarin dialect that serves as the basis for Pinyin. The improved solution could also be used with a traditional numeric keypad to allow one-handed data entry for desktop or mobile computers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-146
Number of pages26
JournalInteracting with Computers
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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