Archive for July, 2010

What is UI Design to me?

Lawson WPF application, Good/Bad Design?

In a recent project I really needed to nail down some of my design thoughts I have when thinking about design. I wanted the customer to understand that I take design seriously, and not just rush into a quick design without thinking about if it’s what the customer wants. The customer needed to get faith in me as the Lead UI Designer. We have had several workshops with the customer where it always ends up with them saying to me “We trust you Michael, you will fix it and make it beautify, intuitive and user friendly”. Of course it’s very nice to get this feedback from the customer, but I would like to list some of my thoughts to all of you also as I did for them.

What is UI Design?

  • It should not depend solely on the attractiveness of the various elements
  • The more intuitive the UI is the easier it is to use and that also means less expensive to use in time
  • Be consistent, set a standard and stick to them
  • Put focus on navigation. Navigation between major UI items is important and done a lot
  • Make a responsive UI, if you believe that the UI is a little slow, not responding quick enough, well then the end user will most like think that the UI is very slow. The user does not want to wait
  • Use color appropriately
  • Expect the users to make mistakes and think about how to handle them, support them in not making any mistakes.
  • Group things effectively
  • Try to take an evolutionary approach :) Look at other applications/sites with a grain of salt.
  • Use metaphors, think about commonly used metaphors in Windows etc., a trashcan for delete, x for quit or close, ? for help etc. But think of this, are they always useful? When are they not useful? What advantages/drawbacks do they have? Do they help non-readers? What about people from other cultures, does the metaphors mean the same for them? Metaphors are very effective in UI if used correctly.
  • Use good looking Icons. But why use icons?
    • They conserve space on the screen, usually takes less space than text
    • Requires limited reading skills
    • They can be very aesthetically pleasing and provide direct access to the functions that they represent
    • They indicate what a specific choice will do in a specific part of the interaction, the user can predict the outcome of a specific icon choice
    • The user must interpret their meaning correctly, so they need to be designed carefully, always with the user in mind.
    • Icons also helps the user to quickly see what he/she is doing
    • Don’t overdo the icons, keep them simple and not to “fancy”.

I remember during my visit to MIX10 in Las Vegas when I attended a design session by Archetype and I thought to myself, wow these guys know what they are doing. If you have not seem them before check them out.

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