Sunday, March 6, 2011

User Interface ~ The face of your application!

What makes us to love some software at first sight? Obviously it is the user interface. But we do ignore the importance of the user interfaces a lot, assuming we are coding for the smart people. But yes, we may be wrong. Not all smart people like to do stuff in hard way. Specially no one likes to waste their time on some one else's ignorance [1] [2]. Hence here comes the need to design and develop sensible interfaces.

What makes a user interface good? Well. Something has been recorded now. We can't change everything or start from the scratch. Every one has started to accept the current model as a standard one. One with a menu bar, standard buttons (we never see buttons in many different shapes. do we?), and the colours too. Again, you should consider the market too. If you are going to market a product to Arab countries, you have to design the interface to suit their RTL (Right to Left) text and their reading pattern too is RTL.

We recently had a mail thread on user interfaces over the mailing list at WSO2, towards making our user interfaces more and more intuitive and user-friendly. Some of the links from the mail thread on the user interfaces are worth sharing here as well. It was also really interesting to note the usage of Checkboxes vs. Radio Buttons. Again, we are programmed to think that way. Trying to change the usage pattern of the Input Controls - like using a check box to do what a button should do normally, will be a loss for the developer, not for the user.

Sun Web Application Guidelines is a good read, specially the chapters on Simple Elements and Visual Design Elements. Web Design References from University of Minnesota Duluth is yet another nice list of materials on usability, describing even the preferences of the children in the user interfaces. Web form design guidelines: an eyetracking study is also worth mentioning. Poorly constructed interfaces ruin the user experience, making the user seeking more assistance from the documents, finally scaring him away from the product altogether! Interesting posts, indeed!

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