Thursday, May 31, 2007 In Boiler Room | trackback

Sunscreen

The Ten Commandments to Cure UI-Virus

Before I started working on user interface problems, I used to be a developer, plain and simple. As many of the developers around the world, I was suffering from the UIV (User Interface Virus) (credits of naming: esense software).

The disease:

The UI-Virus infects those who spend too much time looking at the code behind, attempts to clean up the code with right indentations increases the chances of getting infected. If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, get help!

You measure high efficiency by how many hours you spend creating a new feature.

Your understanding of high performance is the number of system clocks it takes the database to release information for the maximum number of users.

Your text boxes are all of the same size!

If you are a .NET developer, you love Datagrids. If you are otherwise, you list data in a datagrid format!

Your button captions are always: Submit..

You have no sense of urgency towards Fieldsets.

Your validation schemes run on server-side.

You take pride in developing pages in the least time, and highest consistency. Which follows…

Your understanding of consistency is bound to how identical the pages of an application are.

List, View, Add, Edit, Delete, sisters of war, sounds familiar?

For a “yes, no” option list, you use SELECT drop down menu.

The results of the Disease

The following may occur after being infected.

you can’t stop looking at your very nice HTML code.

You enjoy the number of colors used in the interface.

Half the words on the interface are mistaken to be links!

BoldItalicUnderlined words don’t affect you.

You end up with a stylesheet per page.

You lose the sense of PADDINGS and MARGINS.

All your pages look the same.

HELP!

The medicine is here, following are the ten commandments of UI, print them, hang them, and ya’ll just be fine!

1. THOU SHALL NOT DEPRECIATE

Don’t add a title to an area if the area is self-explanatory, it is like showing someone a stick and telling him: this is a stick! I know! Just hand me the stick! DON’T UNDER ESTIMATE USER INTELLIGENT. People learn fast, and get into habits of use. Make it an enjoyable experience. Sharpen the learning curve, the behavior you are implementing does not have to be standard, but you must stick to it through out the application.

2. THOU SHALL NOT DIVERGE

Example: For the desktop application, use the default windows theme for buttons, they look great all ways. Follow standards for as long as it takes you before you commit divergence.

3. THOU SHALL NOT DECEIVE

A button that says “continue” does not “save”, a button that says “save and continue” does. A button that says “Add People(…)” takes you some place to add people, a button that says “Add People” adds on the spot.

4. THOU SHALL NOT NAG

Don’t repeat links on the same page, don’t repeat words, don’t ask many times, don’t shout, don’t go into much details, and over-explain your mistakes… (example: field label: countries, drop down first option: select COUNTRY! What else would I be selecting?! Solution, first option is “–“) (another example: error messages should be compact, straight and polite) (yet another example, don’t bold-italic-underline a single word!)

5. THOU SHALL KILL!

IMPORTANT: DO NOT LET TECHNICAL ISSUES (Studio.NET, Content Management Free portals, WordPress Engine…) STOP YOU FROM MAKING KILLER INTERFACES

6. THOU SHALL RESPECT THY SHEETS

Want to apply style? Consult your CSS. Want a new style? Consult your designer. Never create a new class or add inline styles just to bring your page into style, you will break consistency, and one day you will regret it.

7. THOU SHALL HONER THY BROWSER

Honor the browser as given to you, use its capabilities and don’t enforce gimmicks against its limitations, try not to resolve its shortcomings, next version of the browser will resolve itself. The web is not a desktop application, the browser is, and it belongs to the end user, not to your server. (Example, cherish the browser’s scrollbar, respect the back button, avoid popups. Form inputs of type “file” cannot be set by code; accept this!)

8. THOU SHALL NOT NEGLECT BILL son of GATES of UPPER LAND of MICROSOFT

Firefox is coming fast, explore, but don’t ignore IE.

9. THOU SHALL NOT BRAG

Don’t brag about your features by making a link to every little thingy on your site, like sub navigation and sub SUB navigation! Take the user inside to carry out what they want, not what your PM wants. Respect user privacy, give alerts then move on. Remember, initially, your user hates your guts, don’t give him a reason to dump you. Roses are red, links are blue, or green, or fooshi… all links, not just those you wish them to be.

(this went to esense in the original script!)
10. USE SHARESENSE!
If you can’t, use sunscreen! God knows I hate them both!

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