TeachU takes a lesson from the QWERTY keyboardQWERTY

That is the standard layout of the most commonly used keyboard. Look at your keyboard. The first letters across the top row are QWERTY.

I would bet that you think you know why this layout was chosen as a the standard. Grouping of commonly used letters? (Like “t” and “h”) Most often used letters are placed under the “strongest” fingers? Proven as an easy to learn layout?

Well, it’s none of the above.

In fact, the keyboard layout was not designed with you in mind. The QWERTY keyboard was designed for typewriter manufacturers. When two keys were pressed that were close together, the striking arms would jam. The typewriter designers needed to come up with a design to minimize the jamming. That would make their machine apparently better than a machine that was always jamming.

Once the QWERTY design was adopted by a couple of typewriter makers, and people learned how to type, it became impossible to sell a typewriter with a different layout—who would want to relearn typing with every new typewriter or in today’s case, keyboard?

There is another little thing about the QWERTY layout that few people know. Looking again at the top row, it it very easy to peck out T-Y-P-E-W-R-I-T-E-R

That made it easy for a salesman to demonstrate how easy it was to learn how to operate one of the complicated new machines.

Today, millions of people use a keyboard that was designed to prevent the keys from jamming and to make it easy to knock out the word typewriter. Most people reading this have never used a typewriter.

Point is, QWERTY was designed to make the machines look better. TO SELL TYPEWRITERS!

When you design your product or service, you have a choice to either design for your customer or to make you look better.

That’s a real quandary. 

If keyboards were designed for the consumer, would they understand the design at first glance or only after using the keyboard for a while? And if the keyboard was perfectly designed for the consumer of 1920 but the keys often jammed, what would the users have thought?


Remember, sometimes just avoiding a jam is enough to set a standard.

Your customers want to avoid the jam even more than they want perfection from you. Buyers will choose second best if they are comfortable and believe they will avoid a jam.

Chris Reich