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Usability of Numeric Identifiers vs Alphanumeric Identifiers
We are building a customer relationship management system. As such we have the need to create identifiers for issues entered into the system. There is a debate internally as to whether numeric or alphanumeric identifiers should be used. A usability concern was related to us should we use alphanumeric. Some quick concerns noted are; difficulty in voicing several issue identifers; identify these in a large list and perhaps some left over sentiment that moving away from a system with numeric identifiers will be a challenge for user base.
Any thoughts or scientific user studies that may have been done to validate or refute the concerns?
"difficulty in voicing several" not sure what it means.
I would be concerned about letters and numbers that look the same such as zero and the letter O.
Could you use a set of letters that do not look like numbers. Look at each Letter and see that it does not look like a number.
Also consider pronouncing each number and letter and remove letters that sound like a number.
I know of no important reasons (usability or otherwise) that would suggest you should move away from the numeric identifiers that your user base is already comfortable with.
My feeling is to leave an identifier as nothing more than a simple identity number, and not to impart structure by adding other (presumably alphanumeric) attributes into the single field.
What is the usability argument for using alphanumeric idetifiers?
Last edited by Joe Strazzere; 09-09-2013 at 03:51 AM.
I wonder why some countries such as Canada use a mixture of Alpha and Numeric for their zip code? Maybe it is to make it recognizable that it is not for the US? Maybe it is to have more combinations with less characters? There may be an advantage to using Letters. I don't know what it would be.
Sometimes shorter codes are preferable, and alphanumeric data types can encode more values in a shorter code. Thus some locales use alphanumeric postal codes, rather than longer, zip+4 style codes.
Similarly, some locales use alphanumeric license place codes. Alphanumeric here let's you have fewer, larger, easier-to-see, and easier-to-remember characters on a small license plate.
None of those arguments are likely to apply for an issue identifier in a CRM system. They don't need to be viewed from a distance, nor do they need to be easy to remember, and hopefully people aren't trying to save a few characters in their CRM system's database these days.
I suppose if users were writing down issue identifiers often, a shorter (alphanumeric) identifier would be faster to write. But if you are writing identifiers by hand very often, you are clearly doing something wrong and have bigger problems than just a long identifier.
Last edited by Joe Strazzere; 09-09-2013 at 03:59 PM.