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GUI Design: Auto Outlines

If I were the type to post warning signs I would be tempted to post this: Beware of Automatic There’s often the assumption by designers that an application can “know” what you want and can make things “easy” for you by automatically doing what you intended. Microsoft® began making extensive use of this idea in its products in the 1990s, and more often than not, I found it to be more frustrating than it was worth—mainly because it was often so difficult to undo what had been automatically done. One example that persists today is automatic outlines in word processors. MICROSOFT WORD® I remember vividly the first time I experienced automatic outlines in Microsoft Word. Figure 1 is a screen shot of Word 2010 with some text in a new document. The first two lines … Read entire article »

Filed under: Automatic Features, Featured, GUI Design, Mistakes

GUI Design: Vanishing Options

We’ve all had the experience of clicking on a menu expecting to select a particular option, only to find it disabled. Worse still is when it’s not there at all. This happens with dialogs, too. And it seems to happen to us just when we think we are finally getting comfortable with an application (or interface) or when we return after not having used it for a while. Few things in a GUI are more frustrating. DISABLED OPTIONS Figure 1 shows an example of WordPerfect® 9 with both menu options and toolbar options disabled. For certain options, it’s fairly logical to determine why something is disabled. For example, Cut and Copy are disabled on the toolbar because there is nothing selected in the document. Also, the fact that Paste is enabled seems to … Read entire article »

Filed under: Controls, Featured, GUI Design, Mistakes, Tooltips

GUI Design: Wizards–Blessing or Curse?

Wizards have been used to help users complete complicated setup and/or other tasks that require more information than can be easily understood or laid out on a single panel. By breaking up the details and gathering information step by step across multiple panels the user is more likely to not become overwhelmed as the application gathers all the details needed to complete the task. Sometimes it’s not necessarily the task that is complicated, but rather the GUI itself that is ill-designed and makes the task more complicated than needed. A wizard is seen as a remedy for this situation, but it may only help in the short-term. MICROSOFT® OUTLOOK® EXPRESS SETUP WIZARD Quite a few years ago I tried out Microsoft Outlook Express and discovered that it has a setup Wizard that launches … Read entire article »

Filed under: Controls, Featured, GUI Design, Mistakes