Heatmapping the Keyboard

David Hill over at DesignMatters has an excellent post on how Lenovo collected data for a keyboard redesign.  Below is an excerpt, but please visit his site for the entire tale.

We thought that taking an updated look at key frequency of use would be a good place to start in order to uncover innovation opportunity. Things do change over the years. Who would ever have predicted the increased use of the @ and tab keys prior to the internet. To gather this kind of critical information we solicited agreement from several dozen internal users to install a special keyboard tracker on their ThinkPad.  The request to install a keyboard tracker on peoples’  laptops sounded a bit odd at first,  but eventually volunteers lined up once they understood exactly what we were trying to accomplish. We really didn’t want to peer into their lives, we just wanted frequency of use data. After an extended period of time the data was translated into what we call a “heat map”. The more frequently used the key, the more red we used to color it. This visual mapping technique quickly revealed patterns that suggested design changes.

editing-cluster_heat-map

Portion of the heat map based on collected data

I would love to see the data for the entire keyboard. What I like about their technique is that the frequency of key use did not entirely drive the re-design. They took into account the trajectory of fingers while typing, emotional use of certain keys, and observational data to come up with whys instead of just thats. This allows for more of a theory-based redsign rather than simple problem solving.