User Interface design for numeric keypads

I have just read Raymond’s User interface design for interior door locks which reminded me of a curiousity.


Take a look at your telephone’s numeric keypad. The top row of buttons on mine is 1,2,3. Now look at your computer keyboard numeric keypad or a calculator keypad. For mine, the top row is 7,8,9.


A mnemonic to remember a phone number is to visualize the physical path traveled as your finger pushes consecutive digits. It’s inverted when dialing from the keyboard.


Go figure




Comments (17)

  1. Don Alvarez says:

    Bell Labs did extensive usability testing to determin the keyboard layout that resulted in the lowest error rate and the highest memory recall rate (I think the second-place candidate was two columns of five numbers, but I’m not positive). has copies of a couple short popular articles on touch-tone keyboard layout, but the original usability study doesn’t appear to be online anywhere.


  2. You can blame that on the phone company. The keypad on the keyboard is designed to resemble ten-key calculators. Those calculators came along before the push-button phone.

  3. Hank Fay says:

    And there is even a name for those who are able to use the numeric keypad with proficiency: "10-key typist" — even though there are more than 10 keys, even on the calculator keyboard which Craig mentions. A 10-key typist can plow through a stack of checks faster than we software designers can imagine; keeping all their keystrokes on the numeric keypad is an important consideration in design.

  4. Paul Witt says:

    It was my understanding that telephone keypads are opposite keyboard and adding machine keypads because when touch-tone phones first came out the phone company’s system couldn’t handle the speed that accountant-types could punch in a phone number.

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