Custom Keyboard App Extension

Part 1: Embracing app extensions

Forget about iOS 8

The intention of doing this project was very confined as we were aiming to create a use case to showcase our ability in adapting to iOS 8 App Extension. So the ideation process was initiated from the engineering point of view and it was specifically boxed up by a bunch of designated features. We soon realised that we were confining ourselves to create a problem for the sake of introducing a solution out of nothing.
Therefore, we looked back to the basic derivative problem-solution approach of innovation. Instead of asking “What are the new things we can do with iOS8?”, the question has been rephrased as “What are the problems that could NOT be eased with your CURRENT iPhone, on iOS7?”.
Voting on Google Doc App Extension

The Google Doc circulated among 2359 Media

We started off with a voting document, where everyone in 2359 Media is free to contribute their ideas. We obtained over 20 very interesting, new ideas, which includes things like:
Real Time Voting
Using interactive push notification to vote instantly. Making decision in a group with just a swipe without fuss.
Schedule, remind and organise prescription details for your medication.
Meme Keyboard
A custom keyboard that let user input internet memes in their favourite social network app as easily as inputting emoji.
Hide My Stuff
Moving sensitive files to this app from the native photo application via share extension that would be secured by Touch ID.
We have very limited time on our hands. Hence, since we could not create an entirely new product to demonstrate the use case, the meme keyboard idea was then shortlisted as the only feasible choice.

Challenge: Optimise the enterprise value of the use case

Besides conducting research and development based on iOS 8 adaption, this project also aimed to explore a brand new service package to be provided to our existing and potential clients. Therefore, we tried to look for some alternative use cases with enterprise value optimised. Along the direction of implementing a custom image keyboard, we came up a load of ideas such as typing food stickers, typing charts, typing music scores, typing uncommon ASEAN language, keyboard hints for quiz app, input personal particulars, keychain keyboard, signature keyboard, customised typeface keyboard.
App Extension Idea Generation on Paper

Screenshot of the Paper application when we are doodling about the image keyboard idea

Meanwhile, we tweaked our development research towards custom image keyboard and eliminated some ideas until we got a modified idea, Signature Keyboard, which allows users to enter their hand-written signatures on mobile. The factors we were concerned of are:
1. Limitation of production time = 20 man-days
2. Simple use case for our business partners to understand how custom keyboard works
3. Highly flexible to fit in other applications
After coming up with a complete story of the user experience, we deep dived into designing the wireframes that include two user flows: adding and managing the signatures as images in the companion app, and switching to the custom signature keyboard from the native keyboard to input signatures. These two key features illustrate various use cases of custom keyboard with variable content.
Signature Keyboard Wireframes

The wireframes for the winning app – conceptual Signature Keyboard

Some other features were included to enhance the experience of inputing signatures such as security authorisation via passcode, notification or Touch ID while inserting a third person’s signature, saving customised images from freehand writing on mobile, and adjustable sizes of signature image to fit in different types of media (e.g. email, PDF, google document).
Custom Signature Keyboard App Extension

The wireframes for the Custom Signature Keyboard

Cause of “death” and the variation

While coming up with the wireframes, we found out that there is a constraint imposed by the custom keyboard App Extension that limits keyboards to only text inputs. A signature keyboard that inputs an image of signature directly is therefore not possible. We considered to use action extension to insert signatures into documents as photos instead, and carried on the research about action extension together with share extension. After that, we decided to look back on our existing apps, to find one that we can enhance its value using action extension or share extension. With that, we created HungerSnap, a scheduled food review sharing tool that allows users to Eat First, Post Later.
(to be continued on Part 3: HungerSnap)