Wednesday, October 04, 2006

User Interfaces in LabVIEW

I'm going to change gears a bit and talk about user interfaces (UIs), particularly LabVIEW panels. Some of you may have seen me co-present "the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" with Greg McKaskle at NI Week. We've given tips and tricks for UI design, some of which are general design principles and some of which are specific to LabVIEW. I've gotten a request for a new LabVIEW UI Design presentation, so I'm going to review some of the material here, and hopefully get feedback on what parts people find valuable.

UIs can be the most challenging part of a project, because by definition they deal with that most variable of variables: people.

I find that UI design is full of guidelines and heuristics, with few unbreakable rules. And there are good reasons for that. There are a lot of factors to consider when designing an interface.

I can't look at a snapshot of a panel and tell you if the UI is good or not. No one can. A user interface is much more than whether or not the panel "looks good."

You have to know who is using the panel and what she's trying to accomplish with it. Because, in the end, a good user interface is one where the user gets her task done and is satisifed with the experience.

You also need to know where the interface is being used (e.g. desktop or manufacturing floor?) and how the user operates it (e.g. keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen?).

Making a panel "pretty" should actually be the last step in UI development. You can invest time and money making a panel very attractive, but not everyone who uses LabVIEW is going to find that investment worthwhile.

This is only the first post in a series. Feel free to request any guidelines or features you want me to discuss by e-mailing me at



Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the best texts I've read about UIs is by Joel Spolsky - one of his main rules is basically to give the users what they expect, check out the first chapter of his book at:

He also has a great blog.

7:33 AM, October 08, 2006  
Anonymous Matt Holt said...

Have you abandoned you loyal readers?

1:34 PM, October 16, 2006  
Blogger Christina said...

I'm still here! Sorry, I'm planning to post again really soon.

I was joking with the other NI bloggers that everyone's going to be able to figure out our product release schedules based on our posting frequency. :-)

Let's just say I'm working on something with a deadline, so I'm a little swamped. Don't forget you can use the RSS feed for convenient notifications of new posts!

7:51 PM, October 17, 2006  
Blogger Christina said...

Just realized I forgot to respond to the earlier comment. I agree Joel on Software is awesome. I don't read his blog as regularly as I should, but I have learned a lot from the ones I have read. His bashing of the usability of a cell phone was absolutely hilarious.

4:07 PM, October 19, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home