Hidden Costs of Graphical User Interfaces: Failure to Make the Transition from Menus and Icon Toolbars to Keyboard Shortcuts Academic Article uri icon


  • Graphical interfaces allow users to issue commands using pull-down menus, icon toolbars, and keyboard shortcuts. Menus and icon toolbars are easier to learn, whereas keyboard shortcuts are more efficient. It would seem natural for users to migrate from the use of easy-to-learn menu and icon methods to the more efficient method of keyboard shortcuts as they gain experience. To investigate the extent to which this transition takes place, 251 experienced users of Microsoft Word were given a questionnaire assessing their choice of methods for the most frequently occurring commands. Contrary to our expectations, most experienced users rarely used the efficient keyboard shortcuts, favoring the use of icon toolbars instead. A second study was done to verify that keyboard shortcuts are, indeed, the most efficient method. Six participants performed common commands using menu selection, icon toolbars, and keyboard shortcuts. The keyboard shortcuts were, as expected, the most efficient. These studies show that even experienced users are inefficient in their use of graphical interfaces. One possible way to improve user efficiency is for training programs to provide a roadmap for users to make the transition from using pull-down menus and clicking icon toolbars to issuing keyboard shortcuts. Copyright ©2005, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

altmetric score

  • 11

author list (cited authors)

  • Lane, D. M., Napier, H. A., Peres, S. C., & Sandor, A.

citation count

  • 55

publication date

  • May 2005