Get this stuff out of my head.

The Irritation of Unconventional Text Entry

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In the past two days I have witnessed of two instances where the use of non-standard text entry devices has irritated me.

The first is the payment point of a car park (Exel in Broomhill, Sheffield) where you are required to enter your car registration before being issued with a ticket.  This for two reasons:

  • to prevent the transfer of parking tickets between cars
  • to allow them to implement an automated penalty notice issuing system that works by recognising the car registration as you exit

So it is incredibly important that you enter your car registration number accurately.  So what do Exel provide you for this task? A alpha-numeric keypad laid out in 4 columns in alphabetical order.  It is incredibly difficult to find the keys you are looking for on this keyboard. Doubly so when holding up someone else trying to buy a ticket.the irritation of unconventional text entry

The second instance is the ticket collection machines at Sheffield railway station.  This time you are asked to input your booking reference (incidentally, that’s the alphanumeric reference labelled as ‘Collection ref’ rather than one above it labelled ‘booking reference’ - well done on a touch screen keyboard laid out in a 5x5 (+1) grid of letters and a 2x5 grid of numbers.

the irritation of unconventional text entry

FFS this is a software keyboard. Why on earth can it not be set to use a qwerty layout and a numeric keypad or even a mobile phone style text input mechanism?  Hell, why not allow the user to choose?

I find it difficult to believe that these designs were chosen after user testing and so can only assume that it is due to complete incompetence (as I have applied Hanlon’s razor)