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7 Tips For Great Keypad Design

April 5th, 2010

Si Tech offers our clients unprecedented flexibility in the design of molded keypads and finding the best options can be challenging. Here are a few tips that will help you come up with the best layout.

Function Beats Form – Molded keypads with slick designs can help you make that initial sale, but if those pretty layouts are a nightmare to use it will ultimately hurt your product’s image. Aesthetics matter, but your clients will remember ease of use long after they get over the cool factor.

Inexpensive Doesn’t Mean Cheap – We understand how cutting a few corners can reduce your costs and improve your profit, but if it compromises the product’s quality it will do more harm than good. One way to avoid cheap, easily worn controls is to deal with a company like Si Tech who uses only high quality materials.

Consider Operator Comfort – Molded keypads that feel fine in short prototyping tests may not be as comfortable over long use. Equipment that is going to be used all shift long, day after day, can lead to worker injuries if not ergonomically designed. Always think about long term use when designing your controls.

Find The Right Snap – We can vary the material and construction of our molded keypads to give different levels of stiffness to the keys, something called the snap ratio. If the ratio is too low they keys feel mushy and don’t give operators good feedback, but if too high the keys can be stiff and uncomfortable to use. Si Tech offers a range of snap ratios to give you the right formulation for your product.

Design Intuitive Controls – The best controls don’t need a manual because it is obvious how to use them. While your equipment may not be able to reach that level of design, use some thought when laying out your molded keypads. Imagine if you had to push a joystick forward to make a vehicle go in reverse, and in reverse to go forward. It seems ridiculous but some controls are designed with exactly that type of non-intuitive layout.

Try Fewer Buttons – You don’t necessarily need a button for every function of your device. As molded keypads become more complex they are harder for your customers to figure out. Create a control that lets a single button perform many operations based on operating mode, or put functions in an on-screen menu users can navigate through.

Try More Buttons – Then again having too few buttons can lead to frustration as well. Navigating menus takes longer than simply pushing a single control, and if users have to spend thirty seconds paging through menus every time they activate your device they will quickly become frustrated.

Call the experts at Si Tech so we can help you design your molded keypads to avoid these and other common design mistakes.

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