User Interface Design Tips

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What are some common good user interface design patterns?

User Interface Design Patterns

Common themes and patterns in good user interfaces include:

  • Drop-down menus
  • Main viewing windows
  • Consistent color schemes
  • Easily accessible buttons
  • Readily available help files
  • Intuitive control schemes
  • Helpful and verbose error messages
There are other themes that can be found in all good user interfaces, but these are the most common. User interfaces, above all, should be easy to use and intuitive for novices and experts alike, and should allow them to focus on using the program, not figuring out how to use the program.

   
What is a user interface?

User Interfaces

A user interface is the part of a program or other technology that a user interacts with. An example of such an interface would be the web browser being used to view this piece of information.

The interface is comprised of the main window (where the web page appears), the buttons at the top, bottom, or sides of the program, the location where the webpage name is entered, as well as any menus or drop-down boxes that are a part of the program.

This user interface is how commands from the user are processed and translated into commands that the computer can then use to carry them out. Other examples of user interfaces are hardware devices, such as keyboards, mice and audio input devices like microphones. Because the user interacts with them in some way, they are all considered to be user interfaces.

   
What are some good user interface design techniques?

Good User Interface Design Techniques

Design and implementation of a good user interface means more than simply sketching a design. It requires good user interface design techniques such as proper testing methods, knowledge of how to create interfaces that are intuitive, and knowledge of statistics.

The testing methods that are used to gather user data must be conducted according to government regulations. The creation of intuitive interfaces requires a working knowledge of graphic arts. Also, knowledge of statistics is needed so that proper conclusions can be drawn from the testing results. Good user interface design also requires that the developer know graphic design techniques and, in some cases, know how to program the interface into a computer. Usually, a single designer will not have all of this knowledge, so a team of designers will work together to create an interface.

   
How is a user interface evaluated?

User Interface Evaluation

User interface design and evaluation is a process that many software creators put off until the very end of their project, often because they fail to realize how important a user interface is to the success of an application.

This process involves a lengthy internal creation and testing program followed by extensive outside testing, both for design flaws and programming bugs. The internal testing should be performed using the design team, who will work with many external potential users and a few internal testers to settle on a basic design. From there, they will bring in outside testers to refine the design, test functionality and find any flaws that may be present in the application.

This testing is extremely important, and should be done parallel to the development of the application code itself. Once the application has been tested and coded, it is sent through a final round of testing before being deployed and used.

   
How does a user interface designer create interfaces?

The Creation of a User Interface

The creation of a user interface undergoes several steps and iterations. The designer first makes a list of the functions that will need to be performed through or by the interface by taking requirements gathered from potential users of the system. Next, they begin to sketch example interfaces on paper and design paper prototypes that they then test themselves and on a small group of other possible users.

Once a good design has been chosen, it is created on a computer and immediately put into vigorous testing by users. This testing is designed to flush out bugs in the interface, as well as to ensure the inactivity of the interface. If any changes need to be made to the interface, they are made and the changes are tested. Once testing is completed, the finished interface is produced and used in the real world.

   
What are some examples of user interfaces?

User Interface Examples

Common user interface examples are GUIs, tactical interfaces and voice interfaces. A GUI, or Graphical User Interface, is the type of interface most people think of when they think of a user interface.

GUIs can include things like an operating system on a computer, applications on a computer or the screen on a cellphone. A tactile user interface is less common in people's minds, and can include things like a keyboard and a mouse that people use to interact with the computer.

A voice interface could be an application that uses voice recognition for its commands, such as voice phone prompts or speech to text translators on computers. Other types of interfaces such as touch screens or tablet PCs combine tactile and graphical user interfaces into a hybrid interface.

There are many types of ways for users to interact with computers, but they all fall under the category of user interfaces.

   
What is a GUI?

GUIs

A GUI (or Gui) is a Graphical User Interface. It is different from other interfaces such as tactical interfaces.

A graphical user interface is designed to be an interface or translator that takes commands and information to and from the user and the computer. A Gui is most effective when it is intuitive and easy to learn by a novice user, and when it clearly and concisely communicates information from the computer system to the user.

Gui's can be the hardest part of an application creation process, but are often overlooked or pushed off until the last moment. An example of a Gui is the web browser that is being used to read this text, which contains things like the main window which displays text and graphics, the scroll bar, buttons at the top of the program and menus that are accessible from different buttons on the screen.

Gui's are difficult to design, but they are one of the most important parts of a program, because they are what the user interacts with the most.

   
How is a user interface created?

User Interface Design

A user interface is one of the most difficult portions of a program to design. It starts by creating a list of requirements for the interface by interviewing potential users to find out what their needs are. After this is done, the next step is to take the list of requirements for the interface and draw mock-up designs either on paper or sketching them on a computer. These designs are then tested on possible users of the product, who help narrow down designs that work or flow well.

From this point, the design is refined by the developer with the occasional help of the potential users and tested several more times before it is coded into a program. After the coding is done, the final product is extensively tested on users to ensure that all required functionality is available, as well as to flush out any bugs or problems in the implementation of the user interface. This complicated process of user interface design is essential to creating an interface that is easy and intuitive for users to operate.

   
What kind of expertise do user interface designers usually have?

User Interface Designers

User interface designers can come from a variety of backgrounds, but most come from a background that has systems engineering, graphics design and computer science. The systems engineering discipline helps designers through the entire process of developing an interface and allows them to make the process as systematic and efficient as possible.

The graphics design is key for developing interfaces that are pleasing to the eye, tasteful for users to operate and requires an artistic flair. The computer science knowledge is necessary if the designer is in charge of implementing their design, because they need to know how to code if they wish to create the application. If a designer does not have all of this knowledge (which many do not), then they will need to bring in other designers to fill in the gaps of their knowledge.

   
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