The success of an electronic product is often determined by how easy it is to use. At Si Tech, we have seen how well-designed custom keypads and other controls reduce customer frustration and let a device’s other features shine through. In many markets it is difficult to create controls that please everyone so it might be better to focus on one particular group and develop keypads that meet their needs.

The Conflicting Demands Of Cell Phone Design

Back when cell phones were just phones, manufacturers could use the classic 3×4 keypad and give more attention to the internal workings of the phones than the controls. However as phones have become more complicated, developers have had to experiment with new custom keypads that provide many functions in a small space.

This has made it more difficult to sell modern mobile phones to older customers. A large number of senior citizens are interested in cell phones for emergencies or for occasional short conversations. Most of them don’t want the complex smartphones younger customers are looking for and are simply irritated by QWERTY keyboards or complicated custom keypads. Rather than trying to convince them to buy phones they don’t need, some companies have marketed simpler control schemes designed specifically for older customers.

The Research Phase

Rather than assuming you know what your customers want from custom keypads, it is better to start the development process with research. Interview or survey members of your target consumer group and find out what they think about current devices and what new features they would like.

Unfortunately it’s not a simple as taking ideas and putting them into a control design. Consumers often want the best of both worlds and choosing what features to emphasize over others is part of the challenge of control design. For example, cell phones designed for older customers should have large buttons and displays, but shouldn’t be cumbersome or hard to hold. Individual customers might have wildly different opinions on a control design, such as senior citizens who find simplistic control designs to be condescending.

The Testing Phase

Very few custom keypads are perfect the first time and that is one of the reasons Si Tech offers rapid prototyping so you can test your new designs before going into production. Ideally testing should involve members of the target customer group so they can make the final judgment on how well design ideas have been implemented.

Each round of testing and development will create a better control design. Although development could go on forever, the diminishing returns of each cycle means at some point you have to commit to a design and go for it. However the efforts that have been put into research and testing will lead to a control design that is significantly better than what was originally envisioned.

Contact Si Tech and let us help your organization develop and manufacture the best custom keypads for your electronic devices.