A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

User Interface

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Making Your Design Real: The Form and Behavior Specification

Let's say your development organization has embraced design as a key to creating successful products. You've devoted time and energy to creating the perfect, goal-directed design for your product. Your programmers are ready and eager to start putting that design into code. So…now what? How do you communicate your design to your development team, accurately and in sufficient detail? One approach is to produce a Form & Behavior Specification.

Olshavsky, Ryan. Cooper Interaction Design (2003). Design>Project Management>User Interface


The Man Behind Clippy

Clippy's behavior bugged me, but I was so taken with his facial expressions that I always kind of felt bad sending him away. Anyway, Clippy took a back seat in later versions of Microsoft Office, so I hadn't thought about him in a while, when STC Secretary Erin Lowe off-handedly mentioned that she actually knew the man who invented Clippy. I was very excited to hear this, and Erin graciously agreed to arrange a meeting so that I could talk to Clippy's inventor about the creative process behind designing a user experience like Clippy.

Dickson, Andrea with Erin Lowe. STC Puget Sound (2007). Articles>Interviews>Human Computer Interaction>User Interface


Managing Your Defense Against GUI's from Hell   (PDF)

Check the number of times you walk out of an office complex grasping a door handle shaped to say 'pull me' while warning you with a label that says PUSH. The unwarranted generalization of 'handle' to both sides of a one-way door shouts cryptodesign at work. You’ve see your VCR mercilessly flashing 12:00 pm into the night (and day), reminding you of your slow-witted inability to set the time. According to a consumer survey, a third of TV viewers have given up ever setting a future video recording date and time. Cryptodesign succeeds in maintaining a useless machine interface. The message is clear. Cryptodesign says 'a technique useful for one situation is probably good in all situations.' The antidote requires that we breath life back into automatic design techniques. Let’s call the antidote 'soul design'.

Schaffer, Eric M. Human Factors International (1995). Design>User Interface


Map-Based Horizontal Navigation in Educational Hypertext   (peer-reviewed)

The paper discusses the problem of horizontal (non-hierarchical) navigation in modern educational courseware. It considers why horizontal links disappear, how to support horizontal navigation in modern hyper-courseware, and looks at our earlier attempts to provide horizontal navigation in Web-based electronic textbooks. Map-based navigation -- a new approach to support horizontal navigation in open corpus educational courseware -- which we are currently investigating, is presented. We describe the mechanism behind this approach, present a system, KnowledgeSea, that implements this approach, and provide some results from a classroom study of this system.

Brusilovsky, Peter and Riccardo Rizzo. Journal of Digital Information (2002). Articles>Web Design>User Interface


Más Allá de la Usabilidad: Interfaces 'Afectivas'

La creciente popularización de las nuevas tecnologías de la información obliga a que cualquier producto interactivo sea diseñado para una audiencia cada vez más heterogénea y menos tolerante con experiencias de uso frustrantes. Las técnicas, metodologías y prácticas propias de la Usabilidad y Accesibilidad, intentan hacer frente a este hecho, estudiando las necesidades, objetivos y comportamiento del usuario, y enfocando cualquier decisión sobre el diseño, así como la evaluación, en base a estos factores.

Hassan Montero, Yusef and Francisco Jesus Martin Fernandez. Nosolousabilidad.com (2003). (Spanish) Design>User Interface>Usability>User Centered Design


Mastering the Obvious

This brochure expands upon why ease of use is critical to e-business. In e-business, success follows the path of least resistance. It depends on accessibility, reliability, security and usability of core applications. These applications must be easy to use the first time they are used or your customer may become someone else's customer. Nobody buys ease of use, but nobody buys products without it either. Read about IBM's User-Centered Design (UCD). See why IBM's Thinkpad Team and DB2 Universal database have been so successful. And read in detail about IBM's overall approach to make IT easy.

IBM (1999). Resources>User Interface>Usability


MAX-WIDTH and Flexible Layout with Short Lines

It is now possible to make flexible layout with user-friendly short lines that adapt to screen resolution, to width of browser window, and to font-size chosen by the user. This could be a new beginning for more accessible and usable web pages.

Tverskov, Jesper. Smack the Mouse (2003). Design>Web Design>User Interface>CSS


Measuring the Success of Visual Communication in User Interfaces   (PDF)

Discusses three key areas of visual communication--information access and navigation, icon recognition, and visual appeal--as related to usability research.

Rosenbaum, Stephanie L. and J.O. 'Joe' Bugental. Tec-Ed, Inc. (2002). Articles>Usability>User Interface


Measuring the Success of Visual Communication in User Interfaces   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article discusses three key areas of visual communication we address in user interfaces (UIs): conventional—emphasis on imitating generic forms that meet readers' expectations; icon recognition; visual appeal or 'look-and-feel'. The article uses five case histories to demonstrate how usability research has helped the authors evaluate the quality of visual communication in navigation, icon recognition, and look-and-feel. It describes some of the research methodology the authors use, with examples from the case histories. For each of the three topic areas, we discuss the lessons we learned from the case histories about both usability testing methodology and visual communication guidelines. We mention, but do not concentrate on, related topics such as visual clutter.

Rosenbaum, Stephanie L. and J.O. 'Joe' Bugental. Technical Communication Online (1998). Articles>User Interface>Assessment>Visual Rhetoric


Mediating Group Dynamics through Tabletop Interface Design   (PDF)

Our tabletop research efforts at Stanford University have focused on how tabletop user interfaces (UIs) might respond to and even influence a user group's social dynamics.

Morris, M.R., Piper, A.M., Cassanego, A., Huang, A., Paepcke, A., and Winograd, T. Stanford University (2006). Articles>Collaboration>User Interface


Mental Models

What users believe they know about a UI strongly impacts how they use it. Mismatched mental models are common, especially with designs that try something new.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2010). Articles>User Interface>Usability>Cognitive Psychology


Menús Pastel

Los menús-pastel (pie-menus) muestran cierta superioridad sobre los ubicuos menús lineales a los que estamos tan acostumbrados. ¿Por qué no han proliferado más y sólo se muestran en algunas aplicaciones?

Dursteler, Juan Carlos. InfoVis (2003). (Spanish) Design>User Interface>Interactive>Web Design


Metaphor-Based Design of High-Throughput Screening Process Interfaces   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

This paper describes work on developing usable interfaces for creating and editing methods for high-throughput screening of chemical and biological compounds in the domain of life sciences automation. A modified approach to metaphor-based interface design was used as a framework for developing a screening method editor prototype analogous to the presentation of a recipe in a cookbook. The prototype was compared to an existing screening method editor application in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction of novice users and was found to be superior.

Kaber, David B., Noa Segall and Rebecca S. Green. Journal of Usability Studies (2007). Articles>User Interface>Rhetoric>Tropes


Minimal-Feedback Hints for Remembering Passwords

Passwords are a widely used mechanism for user authentication and are thus critical to the security of many systems. Strong passwords (e.g., b5j#Kv!8N) are less vulnerable to attack but at the same time more difficult to remember. Minimal-feedback hints are introduced to support users in remembering their passwords and thereby enabling them to choose stronger passwords.

Hertzum, Morten. uiGarden (2006). Design>Web Design>User Interface>Security


Minimizing Complexity In User Interfaces

Clean. Easy to use. User-friendly. Intuitive. This mantra is proclaimed by many but often gets lost in translation. The culprit: complexity. How one deals with complexity can make or break an application. A complex interface can disorient the user in a mild case and completely alienate them in an extreme case. But if you take measures first to reduce actual complexity and then to minimize perceived complexity, the user will be rewarded with a gratifying experience.

Tate, Tyler. Smashing (2009). Design>User Interface>Minimalism


Mode in User Interface Design

Perhaps you had, once or twice, experienced the following: When you logon to a software system, you are required to input a user name and password. In most situations, the system remembers your last input and the system automatically pre-fills in the username edit box, and the cursor will be directly placed in the password edit box. You tried typing in your password several times, only to be complained by the system that the password is wrong.

Zhang, Liang. uiGarden (2006). Articles>User Interface


Modeling Information in Electronic Space: An Introduction to This Special Issue   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Organizing content for delivery on the computer screen challenges us to design our information in an imagined three dimensions. As mobile devices respond to the surrounding world, our content also needs to adjust to the real physical environment around our user. Our rhetorical space has changed, and in this special issue, authors wrestle with the ways in which we think, move, and design differently as we explore these virtual and real worlds. One team suggests showing the user the structure of the information gradually in search forms. Another author suggests that merging object-oriented thinking with visual language may offer us a way to consider structure and format together, while granting each its own distinct qualities. Focusing on mobile devices, one author sketches out the challenges we face in this new rhetorical space, and another highlights the idea of embeddedness, the fact that our devices are enmeshed within a content-rich world that we move through. Our final contributor takes us to museums, to

Price, Jonathan R. Technical Communication Online (2001). Design>Information Design>User Interface>Web Design


"More is Less" for Many Home Entertainment System Users

The days of a single remote for the TV or cable box are long gone. Like ants at a picnic, the control pads have invaded the nation's coffee tables. But unlike ants, remotes evolve rapidly. Not only are there more, but many sport added buttons and complexity added each time a model is upgraded with new features.

Sidener, Jonathan. San Diego Union-Tribune (2006). Articles>User Interface>Usability>Minimalism


Motorcycle UX: Riding in the Fast Lane

The design decisions that both industrial designers and interaction designers have made on the Breva provide an enhanced experience for the rider--that is, for me.

Sokohl, Joe. UXmatters (2008). Design>User Experience>User Interface


Moving the UA into the UI: Best Practices for User Assistance   (PDF)

User assistance is any kind of guidance, explanation, or training that is available to users at the point of need to ensure a successful user experience.

Houser, Rob. User Assistance Group (2008). Presentations>Documentation>User Interface


The Myth of Optimal Web Design

Perfection in design is not possible. No matter how much is known about a given business, user group or technology, you can not simultaneously satisfy all possible objectives. For any website or user interface, there are no mathematics, and no algorithms, for deciding which objectives to satisfy in a single design, or even for accurately defining an optimal solution within any of those objectives. There are usability, design and business methods that effectively evaluate and illuminate promising directions , but they are sensitive tools, that work more as guides, rather than maps. In general, any form of design involves too many simultaneous possible objectives and forms of solutions to enable any overall mathematical or algorithmic based confidence. An optimal design, in the broadest sense, is a mythical idea.

Berkun, Scott. UIWeb (2001). Design>Web Design>User Interface


The Narrative User Interface   (PDF)

Only a small percentage of users open Help, and they usually do that only when they have trouble with the application. One way to reach a broader audience is to integrate assistance into the user interface so that people understand the product as they use it. This paper describes our reasons for moving in this direction, provides examples of integrated user assistance, and discusses issues and concerns inherent in moving away from traditional Help.

Raiken, Nancy, Diane Stielstra and Richard Bloch. STC Proceedings (1998). Design>Documentation>User Interface>Help


Navigation   (PDF)

Navigation refers to the method used to find information within a Web site. A navigation page is used primarily to help users locate and link to destination pages. A Web site's navigation scheme and features should allow users to find and access information effectively and efficiently. When possible, this means designers should keep navigation-only pages short. Designers should include site maps, and provide effective feedback on the user's location within the site. To facilitate navigation, designers should differentiate and group navigation elements and use appropriate menu types. It is also important to use descriptive tab labels, provide a clickable list of page contents on long pages, and add ‘glosses' where they will help users select the correct link. In well-designed sites, users do not get trapped in dead-end pages.

Usability.gov (2006). Design>Web Design>User Interface>Sitemaps


Navigation Blindness

Most web development projects put a lot of effort into the design of navigation tools. But fact is that people tend to ignore these tools. They are fixated on getting what they came for and simply click on links or hit the back button to get there.

Olsen, Henrik. GUUUI (2005). Articles>User Interface>Information Design


The Need for Web Design Standards

Unfortunately, much of the Web is like an anthill built by ants on LSD: many sites don't fit into the big picture, and are too difficult to use because they deviate from expected norms. Users expect 77% of the simpler Web design elements to behave in a certain way. Unfortunately, confusion reigns for many higher-level design issues.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2004). Design>Web Design>User Interface>Standards



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