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I have read so many articles here on UXechange and did not really get any further, so I dare to ask this onceagain.

We're planning a new web-application for inhouse business (we are using IE9). Our old business application was running on an IBM System i (AS400) and so users are used to work with their keyboards instead of the mouse (AS400 = terminal / text mode only).

Of course the new web app offers a plethora of possibilities of how to handle input and usage of data. Right now we are discussing whether to include keyboard shortcuts, and if yes, which we should use. And in our team, nearly everyone has a differnt approach to this topic.

  1. Should we override standard IE-shortcuts? We are thinking about Ctrl-S for Save, Ctrl-N for New, Ctrl-P for Print and Ctrl+F4 to close a business object within the application, etc.
  2. Should we take our well-known shortcuts from our old world (AS400)? For example F6 for New, F12/F3 for exit/closing business object?

In our new web application we distinguish between two major patterns. The first is bulk-data-processing (repetitive steps for many records). And the second is individual data processing (processing that one record when you need to deal with it). We could even go that far to say that bulk-processing is happening only in our services-departements, whereas the individual processing is taking place in our "production"-departements.

Yet all these applications should follow the same rules and guidelines, incorporating the same shortcuts (or not).

I DO have an own opinion on this topic, but I do not want to influence anyone by this.

Would be great to get some ideas... Thanks a lot.

PS: English is not my primary language - so pls bare with me if I made some mistakes

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I think whether IE shortcuts should be overridden depends on how visibly your application is IE. Is the full browser functionality still present? If there is an address bar, tabs, IE menus, and the like, and your app is experienced as one web page among many that the user has open, then you should not override any of the defaults. This will be too confusing.

On the other hand, if the user experiences this as "your application", and it just happens to use IE in the background, then there is no issue with overriding the default shortcut keys.

Beyond that, it is difficult to say definitively what you should do. There are a number of factors:

  • How frequently is this used? The keyboard is still by far the best, fastest interface for repeated tasks. If people have to use your app many times a day, they will probably get annoyed if there are no keyboard shortcuts.
  • Mostly new users or migrating from the old system? Obviously giving the old keyboard shortcuts would be beneficial to users of the old system. But the cost may be preserving a clunky old system that is hard for new users to grasp.
  • How do the old shortcuts work in the new paradigm? Yes, preserving the same shortcuts seems like a good starting point. But it might create problems moving on to a new platform. It might conflict with other shortcuts that people expect to find on a desktop. Say, if F1 was delete on your old system, you wouldn't want to replicate that in a Windows environment, where people expect F1 to mean help! Even existing users might expect the new version to work more like a desktop program.

Ultimately, there is no one answer. Any choice you make will be a trade-off, and it depends on what factors are most important to you.

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Thanks for your thoughts on this. We use standard-IE, so you can use our business app in one tab, and some random website in another app. Since it's not just "one big business app" but actually many many apps in one new system, it depends on the actual app how frequently it is used and what pattern applies. –  roland_w Sep 20 '13 at 11:24
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