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I've read about Keystroke Level Monitor and I believe that for the (call centre) application in question the keyboard is, without doubt, the correct input tool for the job.

However, there are so many actions and input fields in the web application that I'm convinced not all users of the system will be able to remember the keyboard shortcuts. Is there a recommended limit on the number of keyboard shortcuts, and if so, how do people with complex UIs work around that? Is this something I shouldn't be concerned with?

PS. We've simplified the UI to the bare essentials, with a lot of options only appearing on demand because we assume it's a vital initial step. We've taken it as far as the usability group will allow.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

I wouldn't worry about an artificial limit on the number of keyboard shortcuts. Such a limit assumes that a user is expected to learn the shortcuts first, and apply them only afterwards.

In reality, users learn shortcuts as they go. And they will learn only the shortcuts that help them accelerate their workflow, while ignoring the ones that they would rarely use.

Desktop apps display the command key equivalents on the menu. Windows also underlines the command key equivalent letter; see this question for a screen snapshot.

In the case of your web app, I suggest that you do display command key equivalents as well, perhaps in smaller light gray font next to a button or beneath it. From my experience helping users at the computer center back in college, I think that you will find that even if users don't figure it out at first, all you have to do is explain to them just once what that light gray text means, and they will start picking up and memorizing command key equivalents as they go.

Update: another option is to display the command key equivalent in a tooltip. It's less obvious, but it also involves no redesign to your web pages.

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