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GUI Design: Icons or Text?

GUIs these days run the entire spectrum of icon usage. Some use practically no text or labels anywhere, while others literally have no icons whatsoever (such as a typical blog ). In the 1990s major software applications established precedents for toolbars that defaulted to a display of icons only, with the first few quickly becoming standard across both applications and software vendors. GOOD: STANDARD ICONS Figure 1 shows the toolbar icons for several different products from Microsoft® and Corel® from 1999-2003. There were certain toolbar actions that applied to all of the applications and—thankfully for the user—the same icon was used for the same action in the case of New, Open, Save, Cut, Copy, Paste, Undo, and Redo. Because users became familiar with these options in one product, they were readily recognizable and usable … Read entire article »

Filed under: Controls, GUI Design, Mistakes, Tooltips

GUI Design: Web Browser Usability

For years web browsers opened multiple windows to display multiple web sites, which is sort of amazing since multiple document interfaces (MDIs) have been around since the 1980s. Those of us that liked having multiple web sites open at the same time would sometimes lose track of the window we were looking for as it was hidden behind all of the others. It was a great day when browser designers finally added tabs. BAD “NEW TAB” DESIGN Firefox® is my browser of choice most of the time these days, but from the start I was amazed at their implementation of the New Tab feature. Figure 1 shows the Firefox 3.6 display when a new tab is opened. It’s a blank screen! Really? Do they really have absolutely no idea what to put on a new … Read entire article »

Filed under: Controls, GUI Design, Mistakes

GUI Design: 1…2…3…Help!

In the 1980s when the advance of personal computers put software applications into the hands of administrative assistants, professionals, and students, “Help!” was quickly becoming the most common four-letter word in the English language. There was an obvious need for extensive and clear software manuals, because (for most of us) there was virtually no prior experience that would help us know how (or learn how) to navigate this new world at our fingertips. Desktops or bookcases near the computer usually contained multiple squatty, three-ring binders in thick cardboard sleeves with manuals for operating systems and desktop software. These were invaluable! But they were not always easy to understand and it was often difficult to find someone nearby who could help. These facts, along with the recognition that reading manuals was not always the … Read entire article »

Filed under: GUI Design, Help, Process