Understanding and avoiding visually ambiguous characters in IDs

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2024-04-23 00:30:05

It is not uncommon that I need to write down or communicate IDs when interacting with systems, e.g. reporting a bug, entering a discount code, or tracking a package. It is frustrating when the experience is marred by an easy mistake to avoid - visually ambiguous characters.

They cause confusion and errors in data entry, especially when the characters are handwritten or when the font is not clear. For example, if a user is trying to enter a code that contains the letter 'O' and the number '0', they might not be able to tell which character is which. This leads to frustrating user experiences.

While some combinations are not difficult to distinguish in computer fonts, they can be much harder to distinguish in handwritten forms, e.g. try writing 9qg in your own handwriting.

Assuming that you are going with case sensitivity, you have 53 characters to choose from (adjusted for visually ambiguous characters). On the other hand, if you decide to make your IDs case-insensitive, you have only 23 characters to choose from.

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