Familiarity in User Interfaces

After reading a recent blog post - http://yovisto.blogspot.com/2013/02/christopher-latham-sholes-invented.html (via Harald Sack) - it raised some interesting points in regard to how the QWERTY layout used on keyboards came about.

“The problem with the arrangement was that the metal arms jammed into neighboring arms when pressed either at the same time or shortly after. Commonly used letter pairs were to be separated from each other, this way the speed of typing could also be increased. After years of rearranging the letters and numbers on the keyboard and the qwerty keyboard as we know it today was born.

Typewriter Image: Clint Gardner

So the QWERTY layout used today across a range of devices was designed to prevent the letter arms of the typewriter getting caught up, we no longer have this issue on modern day computer keyboards and touchscreen devices yet we still persist with this layout.

Other keyboard layouts suggested such as Dvorak - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dvorak_Simplified_Keyboard - are claimed by proponents to

“[use] less finger motion, increases typing rate, and reduces errors compared to the standard QWERTY keyboard. This reduction in finger distance traveled is claimed to permit faster rates of typing while reducing repetitive strain injuries.

but despite years of availability across various system the uptake has been low.

Users have a certain level of familiarity with certain UIs and this can be more productive in use then better optimised UIs that are less familiar.