Wednesday, May 30, 2007

User Interfaces

I was absolutely delighted to see Tomi Maila blog about UI design on EXPRESSIONFLOW and Jim Kring blog about mocking up UIs and human interface guidelines on Thinking in G.

The process that Tomi describes is very similar to the one that I use:
  • Understand the user, what she's trying to accomplish, what decisions she needs to make and what information she needs to make those decisions.
  • Mock-up UIs, either on paper, whiteboards, or VI panels (but with no diagrams!)
  • Usability test the mock-ups.
  • Repeat until satisfied with the design.
Of course "mock-up UIs" sounds simpler than it is. But it gets easier with experience. Over time, you learn things that help you choose the right components. For example, rings and listboxes both let the user choose an item from a list. A listbox is easier to browse but a ring takes up less screen real estate. Don't be afraid to try various components in multiple paper mock-ups and see what parts work better than others.