There are lots of reasons for software to push messages to the user and a variety of ways for this to be done. Messages are often overlooked and left until late in the development process, but they an important aspect of design, since they represent the software reaching out to the user directly. Messages can … More Errors, Warnings, Alerts and other Messages: A Framework
User Interfaces can be seen as being made up of three elements: Visible features that can be directly scanned by the user. Hierarchical structures that offer functionality that is not immediately visible, but can be hunted through. Hidden features that cannot be directly intuited from simply looking at the interface and therefore must be learned. … More How can Hidden Functionality be Justified?
Many aspects of user interfaces can be thought of as hierarchies, some explicit and others implicit. Website menu structures are a form of explicit hierarchy: they seek to give navigational access to a set of pages. Application menu structures are also explicit hierarchies. Except that they contain functions rather than navigation. However, thinking more laterally, … More Hierarchical Structure, Black Holes and Root Complexity
Sharing features allow users to collaborate over the production of assets and dissemination of information. However, there are various ways in which this can be done. This post outlines the key types of sharing behaviour, provides examples and describes some of the challenges associated with each type.
The need to present lists of actionable items is very common in software. For example: lists of emails in an inbox; tasks in a to-do list; bookmarks in a browser; or documents in a file explorer. On its own, this shouldn’t be difficult, but throw in the possibility of some secondary actions and things get … More Lists and List Actions
Its such a small thing, but sometimes little things help keep everything running smoothly. In Windows XP, take a file and copy it – Windows helpfully renames it to ‘Copy of [Filename]’. Unfortunately, it shows up at the bottom of the list of files in the folder, meaning you’ll have to hunt for it. Even … More Copy… what could be simpler?
The need to ‘save’ work in order to preserve it is one of the basic things that can make working with a computer seem complex and confusing to those who are not familiar with them. Even experienced users sometimes get caught out – closing something without saving, or saving when they meant to ‘save as’. … More A model for different types of Save Mechanism
Several times in my career I have been involved in the design of a visual skin for basic UI controls – usually as part of a much larger project. Designing individual form controls doesn’t seem too hard, or like much of a priority, but actually they are surprisingly complex beasts and it’s easy to get … More Interactive States for Form Controls
Scrolling has long been the default method of dealing with a difference between the amount of content to be displayed and the available space, with various strategies used to modify content to avoid horizontal scrolling. However, the status quo has been challenged recently by two developments: First, the rise of mobile devices has meant that it … More Content Building Blocks and Resizing Strategies