Topic: Applications

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  • Defeated By a Dialog Box

    July 23, 2007

    Interaction techniques that deviate from common GUI standards can create usability catastrophes that make applications impossible to use.

    Command Links

    May 14, 2007

    Application commands can be presented as buttons or as links, which offer more room for explanation. For primary commands, however, buttons are still best.

    Progressive Disclosure

    December 4, 2006

    Progressive disclosure defers advanced or rarely used features to a secondary screen, making applications easier to learn and less error-prone.


    October 10, 2005

    Macintosh-style interaction design has reached its limits. A new paradigm, called results-oriented UI, might well be the way to empower users in the future.

    Forms vs. Applications

    September 19, 2005

    Once an online form goes beyond two screenfulls, it's often a sign that the underlying functionality is better supported by an application, which offers a more interactive user experience.

    Scrolling and Scrollbars

    July 11, 2005

    Despite posing well-known risks, websites continue to feature poorly designed scrollbars. Among the ongoing problems that result are frustrated users, accessibility challenges, and missed content.

    Medical Usability: How to Kill Patients Through Bad Design

    April 11, 2005

    A field study identified 22 ways that automated hospital systems can result in the wrong medication being dispensed to patients. Most of these flaws are classic usability problems that have been understood for decades.

    Checkboxes vs. Radio Buttons

    September 27, 2004

    User interface guidelines for when to use a checkbox control and when to use a radio button control. Ten other usability issues for checkboxes and radio buttons.

    Ephemeral Web-Based Applications

    November 25, 2002

    Usability tests of 46 Flash applications identified basic issues related to the ephemeral nature of Web-embedded apps. Some findings restate old truths about GUIs; others reflect the Net's new status as nexus of the user experience.

    Error Message Guidelines

    June 24, 2001

    Established wisdom holds that good error messages are polite, precise, and constructive. The Web brings a few new guidelines: Make error messages clearly visible, reduce the work required to fix the problem, and educate users along the way.

    Customers as Designers

    June 11, 2000

    The Internet is undoing the industrial revolution's emphasis on mass-produced products; now everybody can get exactly what they want. But designing the product you want is hard, and current design interfaces are not good enough for novice designers (i.e., all normal customers).

    Reset and Cancel Buttons

    April 16, 2000

    Most Web forms would have improved usability if the Reset button was removed. Cancel buttons are also often of little value on the Web.

    Saying No: How to Handle Missing Features

    January 23, 2000

    Instead of making users wander indefinitely and frustratingly around a site looking for something that's just not there, tell them if it lacks a frequently requested feature

    The Need for Speed

    March 1, 1997

    All usability studies show that fast response times are essential for Web usability: let's believe the data for once! Advice for speeding up sites despite the fact that bandwidth is going down, not up.

    The Anti-Mac Interface

    August 1, 1996

    We reverse all of the core design principles behind the Macintosh human interface guidelines to arrive at the characteristics of the Internet desktop.

    Response Times: The 3 Important Limits

    January 1, 1993

    How users react to delays in a user interface, whether website or application. The 3 main response time limits are determined by human perceptual abilities.

    A Layered Interaction Analysis of Direct Manipulation

    January 1, 1992

    The concept of direct manipulation is usually viewed as a single characteristic of a class of interaction styles. Here, direct manipulation is analyzed according to a detailed layered interaction model, showing that it has quite different effects on the dialogue on the different levels. In particular, the "no errors" claim may be true at the syntax level but not at several of the levels above or below that level. Furthermore, a unified framework is presented for conceptualizing Direct Manipulation, What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG), Transparency, Immediate Command Specification, Arcticulatory Directness, and Computational Appliances according to a layered interaction view.

    Assessing the Usability of a User Interface Standard

    April 28, 1991

    User interface standards can be hard to use for developers. In a laboratory experiment, 26 students achieved only 71% compliance with a two page standard; many violations were due to influence from previous experience with non-standard systems. In a study of a real company's standard, developers were only able to find 4 of 12 deviations in a sample system, and three real products broke between 32% and 55% of the mandatory rules in the standard. Designers were found to rely heavily on the examples in the standard and their experience with other user interfaces. Thovtrup, H., and Nielsen, J. (1991). Assessing the usability of a user interface standard. Proc. ACM CHI'91 Conf. Human Factors in Computing Systems (New Orleans, LA, 28 April-2 May), 335-341.

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