Let's say I have developed a publicly available application which has a keyboard shortcut available. However, after a while of further development, I've decided that the current keyboard shortcut is not very suitable and would like to change it in a later release.

Is there a graceful method to change the shortcut without affecting the user experience?

You may argue that it is not a good idea to do such thing, but in this question I'm going to change it anyway.

Points to note:

  1. The original keyboard shortcut may or may not gain another function.
  2. The application may or may not allow users to customize keyboard shortcuts.
  3. The focus of this question is not limited to keyboard shortcut, but can also be, for example, a "search keyword" for an extension in a web browser.
  • You mention that you found it to be "not very suitable". Is this based on user research? Do you have any data on how frequently people use the shortcuts in question?
    – CJF
    Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 9:04
  • Are either of the shortcuts universal? For example, ctrl+x is currently something and you want to move your shortcut to something that is not a universal shortcut? Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


Ideas taken from: http://www.uie.com/articles/radical_redesign

If you change your shortcuts, your most avid users will be the ones affected by the change. Be careful about taking something away that they've put the time and effort into learning. Don't make them feel stupid about something they felt smart about.

Your options include:

  • Having both the old and the new shortcut available. Make the new shortcut the main one covered in the documentation, and tell your users you're making the change. But let them choose the moment they switch. This of course only works if you're not going to use the old shortcut right away.
  • Let your users pick their own moment for the switch. Announce the change, but give your users the option to stick to the old shortcut for the time being. If this makes it impossible to use the new shortcut, either let them choose a custom one or let it be: they don't have that shortcut in the old version either.

Some thoughts on the transition and compatibility:

  • Let the user choose whether he wants the new functionality or not - i.e. make sure that they know what they are getting into with the update.
  • Let the user choose if he wants to replace the old key-combo for the new functionality. I think no scope of customization will be a bad idea for the application.
  • For letting the user know of the changes, the first time when he uses the combo after update, show an overlay with a summary of the changes (for the combo). Gives user on the fly update that that functionality has been replaced/removed.
  • After update, give the user a quick tour of the changes and updates in functionality.

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