Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Five things you need to know about user interface design

A while back I spent some time on the phone explaining to someone how to read and send text messages. Navigation within the Inbox was proving far harder to explain than I’d expected, until I realised that my text-newbie was not familiar with the concept of a scroll bar (she’s never used a PC...). The phone’s display, and the way it reacted to button presses, made more sense once this was understood.

Here are five tips for UI designers, to minimise the amount of knowledge required to use a new interface:

1. You can reduce the number of new things that must be learnt by building on existing knowledge, although the text lesson highlights the fact that different people have different levels of experience, and so you can’t rely entirely on prior knowledge.

2. Choose a small set of flexible interaction patterns that can be applied again and again - don’t make the user learn several different ways to perform similar operations - let them learn something to achieve one task, then be delighted to find they can use it for similar tasks

3. Make it intuitive - if a highlight is to move left and right along a set of selections, don’t use the up and down arrow keys to do it

4. Structure the interface to match the tasks the user will perform, not the structure of whatever it controls

5. Build on conventions - car makers do this, out of necessity in some cases (steering wheel and pedal arrangements), but also in other areas (the indicator stick, for example, is common to most cars). For TV UIs, most people are familiar with the idea of something being highlighted, and four arrow keys moving the highlight from one item to the next, and those that aren’t will quickly catch-on because it’s intuitive.

No comments: