Preference ≠ Performance

by Dionne Aiken

Designs that are preferred are not always the designs that help us achieve optimal performance results.

Take a look at your keyboard for example.  Most likely this keyboard has a QWERTY layout which was originally developed by Christopher Sholes in 1874 to assist with the fluidity and movement of the mechanical parts.  Almost all keyboards follow this layout to this day.  Christopher Sholes set the standard and as a result, people have been trained to type on this keyboard format for years.

Unbeknownst to many, there is another layout called the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard (DSK) that was specifically designed to maximize typing speed and efficiency.

It was developed in 1936 by August Dvorak, an educational psychologist and professor of education at the University of Washington and his brother-in-law William Dealey. This keyboard layout increased typing efficiency by 30 percent and assisted in some of the world records set for speed typing.  But despite the clear performance advantage of the Dvorak keyboard, the QWERTY keyboard is still the most widely used and preferred keyboard today.

When approaching design, it is important to acknowledge the difference between performance and preference, and select a design that will achieve the most optimal outcome.  Test designs to see if they are achieving desired performance objectives.  Seeing a design in context and observing audiences’ interactions will, often times reveal truths about a design’s performance that would otherwise remain overshadowed by preferences.

Be sensitive to preferential cues, but at the same time take a realistic look at performance outcomes because in the world of design, the preference IS performance.

One Response to Preference ≠ Performance

  1. [...] you currently using a Dvorak keyboard or the same qwerty keyboard most everyone else [...]

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