The Qwerty Principle

Has anyone already come up with this principle?

If I understand it correctly, the Qwerty keyboard layout was designed for mechanical typewriters to slow typers down, because fast typers would jam the typewriter. When computers came along and jamming was no longer an issue, everyone already knew qwerty, so the inefficient layout was preserved (in contrast to, for example, more efficient layouts like Dvorak that nobody knew).

So the Qwerty Principle would be, usability doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If people are already used to a paradigm that is “unusable,” that fact may itself make the paradigm actually more usable, as compared to alternatives which are theoretically more usable.

You can see this in OpenOffice. Because everyone is used to MS Office, OpenOffice mimics MS Office’s poor/confusing menus and dialogs. GIMP could probably benefit from this by more closely mimicing Photoshop’s keyboard shortcuts.

One Response to The Qwerty Principle

  1. Interesting idea, and certainly the case in my aim to show people Dvorak/Firefox/Linux/etc./etc.

    I’m not sure about though: OOo does a poor job of imitating Microsoft Office’s UI, and the GIMP doesn’t aim to be the same (though Gimpshop, a forked project, does). With OOo, the effect ends up being confusing and, well, terrible, and with the GIMP, well, even if they imitated the UI, the functionality isn’t one-to-one, so I’m not sure it would work out real well.

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