I'm about to undertake the rewriting of a DOS-based application for a client. The client is interested in using the latest web application technologies, and I'm mulling over the UX.

Obviously, this DOS application will most likely not feature the mouse, so I'm concerned about users who love their keyboard-only environment. At the same time, I don't want to hamstring the rewrite with decades-old requirements.

I'll be digging into the application to see its features and functionality at the end of the week, but I'm hoping I can get some guidance on best practices from folks that have undergone such a significant UI paradigm shift.

1 Answer 1


This is what I spend the majority of my time on: building web apps for internal clients who are used to a DOS type interface.

It will be a major paradigm shift for your users. There is no going around that. And, no, you will probably not be able to both make something new that doesn't require a lifetime to master the arcane commands AND keep all the keyboard shortcuts.

But, and here's the good thing, you don't need to. Now they won't have to remember that if they want to find a client's phone number from an order screen they have to first press 5 then 3 then 1.

(On "DOS" type screens you use numbers, or the TAB key, to go to a new screen as opposed to using a mouse)

Now your users can have the client name link directly to relevant information (phone number(s), email, address, and what-have-you). They will not need to remember the path, nor need macros to speed up the process. The information is now in the context of the screen. Should they need to know more about the client they click on the client name, and there it is.

You will have the fun (and challenge) of working out a system from scratch. I recommend you take an iterative approach as you will not make the perfect system the first time through.


The one pitfall to avoid (the same as all UX) is to not focus on what users say they want. You need to pay attention to what they are trying to do and their pain points.

I know I'm preaching to the converted here but the point needs to be made because many users will say they want EXACTLY what they had before, except for it look better, work better, etc... You cannot give them EXACTLY what they had before and have it work better. It will work the same.

Example: I had users say they wanted, no NEEDED, a drop-down with the following options


and they wanted it in that order.

The users were stuck in their mindset of a limited utility on a small screen. I gave them three toggle buttons:

[A] [B] [C]

Now they can select and change their choice with ease. The users loved the change.

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    Thanks for the answer! Can you list any other pitfalls or concerns that you've run into that I may not be considering? Nov 14, 2016 at 21:30
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    The one pitfall to avoid (the same as all UX) is to not focus on what users say they want. You need to pay attention to what they are trying to do and their pain points. really good advice Nov 15, 2016 at 19:16
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    The users loved the change. Yeah, but I'm sure they still tried to say the old ways were better for the first couple weeks :)
    – ecc
    Nov 21, 2016 at 16:00

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