Keywing the Key Turner

Surprise Response Launching the Keywing Key Turner at Nottingham Arthritis

On the last Friday in March, two days after releasing the Keywing, I hit the road to launch the new Keywing key turner aid at the Nottingham Versus Arthritis meeting. This was the first group I’ve met with to ‘show and tell’ the finished product. Previously I’d always presented key turner prototypes for testing and feedback. I was a little nervous to present the final product face to face with arthritis sufferers who make up a good portion of my target market.   Their response would indicate the success or failure of the product.

I hadn’t met with this group before, which was great because it meant a fresh set of eyes interrogating the product; in particular those of potential customers. Below I cover the end user feedback I received, including a significant surprise at the end, including:

  • Honest initial impressions and what they did / didn’t like
  • Suggestions and needs for new products that would aid and help people with arthritis
  • Where users expect to buy the Keywing key turner
  • If anyone purchased a Keywing key turner (the real test).

Why Did I Design a Key Turner?

When I walk into a room with a bunch of Keywing key turners, the welcoming smiles are often followed by somewhat confused looks. After I introduce myself, people tend to ask how and why an arthritis free man came up with the idea for a new key turner aid. I enjoy telling the story of what lead to the ‘light bulb’ moment, as it often intrigues and engages the room. It goes like this…

A few years ago, I found an odd blue plastic product that looked like a toddler’s toy, sitting on my Dad’s kitchen bench. Very confused I asked Dad what it was, to which he informed me that it was a key turner aid. He went on to explain that recently he had struggled to unlock his garden shed due to his reduced hand dexterity and a small key in a rusty lock, and it drove him up the wall.

A few days later, he was in the pharmacy and saw this blue key turner aid which was a new concept to him, which he thought he’d try. Unfortunately, within 48 hours the big blue key turner had broken and was waiting for the bin. However, this wasn’t his only frustration with it. It was so big and cumbersome that it felt like he had another hand in his pocket, which really defeated the practicality of it.

My sketchbook of some early Keywing key turner thoughts and concepts, including the Workey.

This is where it started…

  • Firstly, if this was Dad’s front or back door, the problem could be far worse.
  • Secondly, I didn’t want to get the call every time his grass needed mowing!

With a background in design (Architecture), the challenge of a better solution stuck in my head, and a few months later I created the Workey key turner (v1 of the Keywing) which won the Design Council Spark award and funding from charity Versus Arthritis.

Responses to the Keywing

Having passed a number of key turners around the room whilst I was speaking, people immediately opened up with their thoughts and a range of questions. I knew this is where the tyres would hit the road, and this feedback would be a strong indicator of the potential success or failure of the Keywing.
As they each held the Keywing clipped onto a key, you could see people have the ‘light bulb’ moment as they twisted the key back and forth in the air, as if turning the key in a lock.

Once they’d all had a chance to have a look and feel, the questions and feedback started coming:

  • Will this work with mortice / chubb keys? (no)
  • Does it work on every key? (no)
  • Will it work on my very small window keys? (yes)
  • Do I have to take it on and off each time? (no)
  • Can I put it on without taking the key-ring off the key as that is very hard? (yes)
  • How much are they?

Their reactions to my answers and the product is a great indicator of what could be improved in the current design.

I won’t dive into each response in this blog in detail, but the FAQ page will provide answers if you’re curious. Responding to each question provided me with valuable insight into the aspects that matter most to the target audience.

The four Keywing colours that were passed around the room for all to hold.

Fortunately, the initial responses and reactions were very kind and positive. Many were familiar with the ‘big blue key turner’ that they were able to compare it to. Some of the reactions included:

  • “It’s far easier to carry around with you, it’s very light and slim, this will fit in my pocket very easily”
  • “It’s a lot more discrete and manageable”
  • “I like that there aren’t any screw pins or bolts to secure through the key”
  • “It is very grippy on the key and nice and secure”
  • “The range of bright and bold colours are great to know which key is which”

My turn to ask the Questions

Once the questions have been answered, I like to turn the tables and ask a few questions myself. A key part of a successful product launch is reaching the target market efficiently and to be able to do that, I need to know about them. Thanks to my strong relationship with Versus Arthritis, I’ve been able to spend valuable time with arthritis user groups across the country during design & development. However, this alone isn’t sufficient awareness to spread the product to the millions who could benefit from it, I need to find the most efficient way to reach these people myself. A few key questions I always ask is:
  1. Do you have anything like this already? (that is anything that makes keys easier to turn, hold, or grip)
  2. Where do you shop and are you comfortable shopping online?
  3. Where would you expect to find a Keywing key turner?
  4. Do you use social media?
With such a friendly audience, we spoke for quite some time on these points. Below is a summary of the valuable insight I gained:
  • Other products (competition): Most people knew of and approximately half had tried the big blue key turner (like the one Dad had bought). Their feelings towards it weren’t positive, due to its size, design (fiddly screws, cumbersome) and it wasn’t robust.
  • Shopping Preferences: They were largely comfortable shopping online, with Amazon being their ‘default’ store but that wasn’t to say they wouldn’t shop on an independent online store “as long as it looks trustworthy”.
  • Magazines like Ways and Means by NRS Healthcare is where they’d hope to discover it.
  • High street stores such as Timpsons (and similar) were the broad majority of peoples expected place to buy / find them. The opportunity to hold and try the key turner on a key was a resounding factor in conveying the benefits; “if there was one on a key in store it would be great as people often don’t know key turners exist so they don’t even search for it online”.
  • Pharmacies (such as co-op) sell the big blue key turners already, and they’d hope the Keywing could be on the shelf alongside it, in places such as Boots too.
  • Even a garden centre was suggested by a couple.
  • Social Media: The audience are not the biggest social media users.

Comfortingly, these responses were all in line with those I’ve received at sessions in the past. This input is invaluable in refining marketing strategies to efficiently reach more people who could also benefit from the Keywing key turner.

The Keywing prototypes were tested in a wide range of hands to gather feedback.

The next big idea…

The bigger picture of Keywing and the Dext brand is to continue designing a range of intelligently designed products that simplify everyday activities that people can be proud to use. Dext focuses on innovation and universal design to create beautiful solutions that ensure users enjoy life. The intention is that our products will disrupt the extremely dated ‘mobility aid’ industry - starting with the Keywing key turner.

As research, I always ask people what daily tasks they struggle with, and what they wish existed to help. This is usually an unexpectedly fun discussion as people tend to laugh as they connect over the daily tasks they struggle with, which are often considered as pretty mundane activities by most.

A few common responses, which were echoed again are:

  • Opening Plastic Bottles
  • Opening hard sealed plastic packets
  • Peeling shopping bags apart at the self-serve check out
  • Buttons and Zips
  • Shoelaces

I’m always working on new concepts to tackle these challenges, and if you’re interested in hearing about them as they come to life, or taking part in testing, join our newsletter here. Alternatively, if you wish that something existed that could help you with a daily task or independent living I’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop me an email at and I’d be happy to work with you to try and help you out.

Did they put their money where their mouth is?

At the end of the session I mentioned that I had brought a number of Keywings with me and that if anyone wished, they were available for purchase. I’ll admit that I thought a few people may buy a Keywing on the day, but I certainly didn’t expect 90% of the attendees to walk out with a new key turner. Even more exciting was that most purchased the Keywing triple pack. This was a very pleasant surprise, and as people lined up to buy, the nerves I walked in with became a distant memory. I felt a significant contributor to this was giving users the opportunity to hold and feel a Keywing key turner aid in their hands; something I’m looking forward to trialling in retail stores.


Just as valuable was the feedback I received, confirming that the design decisions made have produced a product that is:

  • Needed and solving a common problem (even for those without arthritis)

  • Practical and effective

  • Desirable

This is all thanks to thorough testing of various kinds of key turner prototypes along the way. A very kind thanks to Versus Arthritis Nottingham branch for having me and their contributions.

If you have a friend or relative that has reduced hand dexterity or arthritis in their fingers and hands and could benefit from a Keywing key turner, pass on the message here: 





1 comment

Apr 29, 2019 • Posted by sue williamson

This would be very useful for me as i have osteoarthritis thanx

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