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News: Six Tips for Sane User Interfaces

  1. Six Tips for Sane User Interfaces (10 messages)

    In "6 Tips for Sane User Interfaces," Mike Arace offers (surprise!) six tips to help design simpler, more appropriate user interfaces, among them: Start with the end in mind, think sequentially, don't get cute, web apps aren't database interfaces, and others. Specifically, the six elements, with short summaries:
    1. "Start with the End in Mind:" this is described as, more or less, taking a hint from the entertainment industry and constructing something similar to storyboards.
    2. "Think Sequentially: When designing an interface, picture the optimal case in which you would like a user to do the data entry. You should be able to describe succinctly to your users the order of events."
    3. "Don’t Get Cute: There has recently been a proliferation of neat AJAX-y and Web Service-oriented widgets you can add to your website. Before introducing them to your environment, ask if it really helps the end user’s comprehension of what they need to do..."
    4. "Don’t Count on Documentation: Generally nobody reads introductory text or anything else on a form (aside from the field names) before they start to fill it out. If your application counts on written descriptions to guide users from one step to the next, you should probably re-evaluate your flow and make the forms more obvious."
    5. "Group Things:" this tip refers to using elements to suggest logical groupings to the users.
    6. "Web Apps Aren't Database Interfaces: If your web app looks a lot like phpMyAdmin, you may want to change it. Your application should provide more value than that."
    What do you think? What other suggestions would you offer?

    Threaded Messages (10)

  2. Startlingly original suggestions from a man who has obviously mastered the art of human-computer interaction. He has advanced the state of the art. Kudos to Mike Arace !
  3. 'er...[ Go to top ]

    Is this not obvious? Granted many people do it badly, but I've seen entire books on this subject. I assume the previous poster was joking then?
  4. Obviously[ Go to top ]

    It is obvious to me too, unfortunately in my experience it is almost never obvious to the people who has the final say in deciding what the applications UI looks like. More often then not, whenever someone points out a bad interface design, it always ends up being an ego and preference war.
  5. Imagine that[ Go to top ]

    If you're building an application for a specific client, find the dumbest person in the office, sit them down in front of the computer, and see if they can use the application. If they can, then you'be successfully built a user interface!
  6. Much of this advice is/was really helpful especially for CICS programmers back in the day who were learning some new technologies and trying to create screens for 4GL or web applications. Typically they would try to cram as much as they could onto a single page, much like they had tried to do on their CICS screens. At least this was my experience with the CICS programmers I met. I remember going around and giving a small presentation to some of these folks explaining the benefits of field/caption alignment and grouping related information into manageable chunks. The book I based my presentation, which I don't remember the name of because I don't have it with me at the moment, had many good examples as well as supporting studies, usually psychology studies, showing why certain UI design decisions more beneficial over others. This took away much of the subjective feeling some people had toward doing UI design. Things are somewhat better now than it was then but I suspect we might start to see an incoming wave of over designed AJAX pages in the near future. Hopefully not but we'll see.
  7. Re: Six Tips for Sane User Interfaces[ Go to top ]

    The book I based my presentation, which I don't remember the name of because I don't have it with me at the moment, had many good examples as well as supporting studies, usually psychology studies, showing why certain UI design decisions more beneficial over others.
    Are you thinking of About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design" by Alan Cooper? This is IMO a classic on UI design (even if the author was responsible for giving birth to VB!)
  8. Book from 1992 - Galitz[ Go to top ]

    Are you thinking of About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design" by Alan Cooper? This is IMO a classic on UI design (even if the author was responsible for giving birth to VB!)
    The book in question is "User-Interface Screen Design" by Wilbert O. Galitz published in 1992. It looked at design for both mainframes as well as PC based interfaces. As I mentioned before it has many, many direct references to studies done to support screen interface design choices. To quote one example from the book... "..... compared auto skip with manual tabbing in a data entry application. Auto skip, while requiring fewer keystrokes, was found to result in longer keying times and more errors than manual tabbing because it disrupted keying rhythm. (Galitz, 1972)" As I mentioned there are many, many such references to studies not just Galitz's own studies. Without references to studies I think that some authors (maybe many?) might be putting down their own opinions without backup evidence to support it.
  9. specialisation helps[ Go to top ]

    It's probably not the best use of skill to ask coders to design UI's, but it happens on projects I've worked on, and a week before acceptance testing web designers come in and say it should have been done differently, but it's too late by that time. Get the web designers' input early, and use their skills, customers will get the ultimate benefit.
  10. Third tip & the market[ Go to top ]

    Usually something "cute" is easy to sell... this is true even for the software market, no matter if it adds a real value to your app. I think you got the point but in this moment the market has another feeling about about the "web 2.0". Terenzio
  11. A good book on the subject[ Go to top ]

    is called "Don't make me think". It is specific to web development, and is a number of to the point thoughts for designing a solid, usable UI. Reading at, as a coder, made my UIs a lot nicer. With a simple set of rules even a coder's ability to generated a usable interface can increase dramatically :) Brian http://blogs.sourceallies.com/roller/page/joedeveloper