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User Interface

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New Life for Product Documentation

Here are some 'truths' we've all heard: 'Documentation is just a band-aid for poor design.' 'Real users don't read manuals.' 'Super users never read anything.' 'Help doesn't.' But are they really true? I've seen some signs of life in the use of documentation for digital products recently.

Quesenbery, Whitney. UXmatters (2006). Articles>Documentation>User Interface>User Centered Design


New Plasma Screens Fail London's Commuters

Although the new screens at Waterloo station use the latest screen technology and look very impressive, they have not been designed with the hassled and hurried commuter in mind.

Usability by Design (2005). Articles>User Interface>Accessibility>Usability


Noncommand User Interfaces

Several new user interface technologies and interaction principles seem to define a new generation of user interfaces that will move off the flat screen and into the physical world to some extent. Many of these next-generation interfaces will not have the user control the computer through commands, but will have the computer adapt the dialogue to the user's needs based on its inferences from observing the user. This article defines twelve dimensions across which future user interfaces may differ from the canonical window systems of today: User focus, the computer's role, interface control, syntax, object visibility, interaction stream, bandwidth, tracking feedback, interface locus, user programming, and software packaging. Keywords: Agents, Animated icons, BITPICT, DWIM, Embedded help, Eye tracking, Generations of user interfaces, Gestural interfaces, Help systems, Home computing, Interactive fiction, Interface paradigms, Noncommand based user interfaces, Prototyping, Usability heuristics, Virtual realities, Wizard of Oz method.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (1993). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>User Interface>Usability


Nothing but .Net? Nyet!

Given Microsoft's track record, it would seem awfully foolish for me to bet against them and those who will follow their lead, and the idea does seem superficially reasonable. But despite this, I predict that the ASP aspects of .Net won't work nearly so well as Microsoft hopes and may even fail outright. The problem with Microsoft's ASP approach? The strategy is driven more strongly by economics and a fear of competition from smaller, more nimble ASPs than by customer needs and habits.

Hart, Geoffrey J.S. TECHWR-L (2001). Design>User Interface>Software


Ode to Balloon Help

Perhaps we should look to the simplest elements of usability for inspiration. Perhaps it's time to recognize the contribution of a single humble helper. Yes, it's time for an ode to Balloon Help.

Cavanagh, Thomas B. Usability Professionals Association (2004). Design>User Interface>Usability


OK-Cancel or Cancel-OK?

Should the OK button come before or after the Cancel button? Following platform conventions is more important than suboptimizing an individual dialog box.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2008). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>User Interface>Usability


OK/Cancel Comics

Many, many episodes of a comic for user interface designers.

OK-Cancel. Humor>Usability>User Interface


On Being Modern: New Technologies and Voting Outside the US

The argument most frequently advanced in the United Kingdom in favour of implementing electronic voting is that it will increase turnout. In the UK, the under-25s tend to avoid voting in elections of any type. Local government and European Parliament elections rank among the worst for turnout (below 40 percent) and demonstrate a continuous downward trend in recent years.

Ferguson, Louise. Usability Professionals Association (2003). Articles>Usability>User Interface>Civic


On the Meta-Usability of User Interface Standards

Interface standards provide context-specific guidance for implementing a system based on the task goals and functions within it. A solid standard provides guidance at two levels. At the level of look and feel, it ensures consistency throughout the application or site. To be meaningful in usability terms, the standard also must provide guidance to support a consistent experience at the functional level.

Straub, Kathleen. uiGarden (2006). Design>User Interface>Standards


On User Interface Design, Part II

The second of a pair of presentations by Alan Kay (of Smalltalk fame). The presentation is from 1983 and discusses the development of user interface design from the 1960s onward.

Kay, Alan. University of California Berkeley (1983). Articles>User Interface>History>Podcasts


Operating System Interface Design Between 1981-2009

Over the years a range of GUI’s have been developed for different operating systems such as OS/2, Macintosh, Windowsamiga, Linux, Symbian OS, and more. We’ll be taking a look at the evolution of the interface designs of the major operating systems since the 80’s.

Webdesigner Depot (2009). Articles>User Interface>Operating Systems>History


Optimizing System Usability Without Re-Design

Projects critical to the missions of business organizations fail, devastating operations as well as IS budgets. Other systems are created or purchased at great cost only to be underutilized or plagued with non-standard 'work-arounds' that undermine the core efficiencies of the system. Fortunately, many of these systems can be recovered. They are technically adequate and potentially usable. User’s perceptions that they are unusable can be changed* through a multifaceted intervention process that we call Mission Critical System Optimization.

Orr, M. David. Usability Interface (1998). Articles>Usability>User Interface


Organizing Content 23: The Interface Is Text

Language experts should play a more active role in shaping the interface because the interface is text. As such, writers do a disservice to project teams if they don’t play a role to help clarify and sharpen the interface language.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Information Design>User Interface>Technical Writing


Overloaded vs. Generic Commands

Overloading different outcomes on similar commands can be confusing. Using the same command for multiple actions enhances usability if the results are conceptually the same.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2012). Articles>Usability>User Interface>Minimalism


Panic! How it Works and What To Do About It

When we create technologies that are extremely complex and do not provide comprehensive feedback for each and every possible error, such as a seat belt left unbuckled, people have a tendency to drive their aircraft into garden parties. When we create technologies where similar actions produce dissimilar results, such as placing a brake and accelerator pedal side-by-side, to be actuated in the identical manner by the identical limb, people will periodically die.

Tognazzini, Bruce. Nielsen Norman Group (2004). Design>User Interface>User Centered Design>Emotions


Panther: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

For a long time, people have been writing me, asking that I do an in depth review of OS X. I held off because I really didn't think OS X was ready for prime time. That's all changed. OS X, in the form of the Panther release, is more than ready.

Tognazzini, Bruce. Nielsen Norman Group (2004). Articles>User Interface>Operating Systems>Macintosh


People Finder: Searching Without Logic? Improving the People Finder Application

One of the most frequent tasks on many intranets is finding people within the company. Providing an effective way to search people is thus a key goal in designing intranets. This goal becomes even more important for an organization like Emirates, a leading international airline, which has over 35,000 employees with over 140 nationalities and where more people are likely to use this feature more frequently.

Deshmukh, Vivek. Boxes and Arrows (2008). Articles>Web Design>Usability>User Interface


Perpetual Design-Think

Software is sometimes poorly designed to begin with and the interface should be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch. But more often than not, I see software that started with a decent design and has since had features added onto it with each release, squeezed into the existing design rather than being designed in. People aren't in a design mindset but an 'enhancement' mindset somehow.

Ferlazzo, Ellen Lawson. Sprezzatura Systems (2002). Articles>User Interface>Usability


The Perpetual Super-Novice

The problem of the perpetual super-novice is the tendency of people to stop learning about a digital product--whether it's an operating system, desktop application, Web site, or hardware device.

Sherman, Paul J. UXmatters (2007). Articles>Usability>User Experience>User Interface


Perspectives on Design and Internationalization

We have not really given much attention to what most people think of when they think about the topic of internationalization as applied to the design of computer systems. For most people the issue is one of making a system (generally developed for a particular national audience) acceptable in another country.

Karat, John and Clare-Marie Karat. SIGCHI Bulletin (1996). Design>User Interface>Localization


Persuasive Design: Tapping the Main Line

We love stories, recognise patterns in fractions of a second and have a set of highly developed social behaviours. In "Persuasive Design" Mike will be running through a collection of these hard-wired influence points and exploring how they can be used in the design of products, interfaces and experiences.

Stenhouse, Mike. SlideShare (2008). Presentations>User Interface>Persuasive Design>Cognitive Psychology


The Place for Standards in Interaction Design (IxD) and UI Design (UID)

'Standards': the word strikes fear in designers around the globe, and makes engineers lives so much easier that they bow at its alter. (Yes, this is an exaggeration for affect, but an important one.) But before we can dig a big deeper into standards for designers, we need to do some definition work.

Malouf, David Heller. uiGarden (2006). Design>User Interface>Standards>Interaction Design


Plasticity of User Interfaces: A Revised Reference Framework   (PDF)

Mobility coupled with the development of a wide variety of access devices has engendered new requirements for HCI such as the ability of user interfaces (UIs) to adapt to different contexts of use. We define a context of use as the set of values of variables that characterize the computational device(s) used for interacting with the system as well as the physical and social environment where the interaction takes place. A UI is plastic if it is able to adapt to context changes while preserving usability. In this paper we present a reference process for the engineering of plastic user interfaces. The process revises a previously published reference framework. The amendment is twofold: first it refines the design time process and secondly extends its coverage to the run time.

Calvary, Gaelle, Joelle Coutaz, David Thevenin, Quentin Limbourg, Nathalie Souchon, Laurent Bouillon, Murielle Florins and Jean Vanderdonckt. Universite Catholique de Louvain (2002). Design>User Interface


Polite Computers Win Users' Hearts and Minds

Computer glitches would be a lot less annoying if the machines were programmed to acknowledge errors gracefully when something goes wrong, instead of merely flashing up a brusque "you goofed" message.

Biever, Celeste. New Scientist (2004). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>User Interface


The Politics and Practices of Interface Design

This studio/seminar course will contribute to students' practical and theoretical knowledge of user-centered interface design. In the move from Engineering English to Technical Communication, technical communicators increasingly work with and within computer interfaces, as content developers, as human-factors and usability experts, and as information designers. This course examines both the work of interface design, focused on web and multimedia interfaces, and the theory of such work, particularly where it intersects with critical and cultural theory. We'll be looking at the development of user-centered and participatory design (Johnson, Ehn, Winograd), critical theories of technology (Foucault, Feinberg), and design strategies for critiquing or politicizing design (Laurel, Kolko).

Carter, Kellie Rae. Wayne State University (2004). Academic>Courses>User Interface>User Centered Design



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