Understanding the Local User’s Keyboard

Understanding our international customer was never more important than it is now. In some of the Adobe products, the number of local consumers have been recorded as high as 50% of total unique users and it’s only increasing!

Given the plethora of devices and media through which the end customer is reaching us, we have a demanding task at hand of identifying the typical use case of user input method. There are a huge variety of keyboards for each Geo, locale and language. Before coming to how to zero in on what to go ahead with, let’s look at why that is important. There are easily as many as 11 different layouts for a French keyboard on Windows alone, for example, the French Belgian keyboard has the & symbol with number key 1, but French Canadian key has it with number 7.

How do you define the best shortcut for your software and how do you ensure everybody is at least enabled to use your application with a keyboard of their locale? When you go buying a Spanish keyboard, some very different options are available, depending upon the manufacturer and region. Some stark differences are highlighted below.

mexico_keyboard
Mexican Keyboard
spain_keyboard
Spanish Keyboard

Does it mean we could assume that two keyboards of different language from the same region would have the same layout? The answer is interestingly NO.

French_keyboard

In one of the Creative Cloud releases, French users who bought their keyboard from Europe instead of the US or Canada could not even sign-in to the Creative Cloud Desktop App. The reason being, the @ symbol is a shift sequence in American or Canadian layouts, but is a Alt-Gr combination for European layouts. When Creative Cloud disabled special characters in Adobe Id’s, the @ symbol on the Belgian keyboard also got blocked.

Keyboard shortcuts are the most adversely affected area as they often combine special characters, Alt, AltGr, Alt-right, Cmd and parenthesis keys which are placed at different locations on a keyboard depending upon the region (not language)!

For the engineering side, it’s unavoidable to understand how, why and what of “differences in input methods”.

Exercise caution while designing your software. We could be blocking out the Currency symbol due to a special key combination for local currency in a currency field, just like the @ issue mentioned above.

While testing the software,

  • We should never assume the keyboard layout is going to have much to do with OS or application locale.
  • Watch where you buy your keyboard from, amazon.com offers only French and American layout for French language, but local sellers and users certainly use a different one in Belgium, as mentioned above.

Concluding this, I’d say a problem well understood is half-solved. Awareness of your keyboard and its region is key to designing with defect prevention in mind.

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