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GUI Design: Muscle Memory

We get in the habit of doing things in a certain way and don’t want to have to think about the details of repetitive tasks. This concept has come to be known as muscle memory. It applies in all areas of our lives, including repetitive tasks we perform with a user interface. GUI designers should take care to assist users of their products by placing the same controls in the same relative location whenever possible. This greatly enhances usability and reduces frustration. Two unhappy examples have come to my attention recently.   NOVELL® GROUPWISE®   Novell® GroupWise® is an outstanding product that has been around for a long time. Like all great products, however, sometimes new features are added without as much care as they should be given.  Email applications over the last few years … Read entire article »

Filed under: GUI Design

GUI Design: Check Box Checkup

I am still amazed when I find current examples of standard GUI controls being used with non-standard functionality. The roles and purposes of check boxes and radio buttons, for example, have long been established. They should not be used interchangeably or have their functionality changed to match the other. Anything a designer or programmer might hope to gain by such a decision is far out-weighed by the confusion imposed on the user. ECLIPSE® MISUSING CHECK BOXES Figure 1 is a screen shot of the Eclipse® Preferences dialog showing the list of Installed JREs.   Notice the check boxes along the left side of each item in the list. One could easily get the impression that these check boxes are for selecting items in the list. They are not. The check box actually indicates which of … Read entire article »

Filed under: Controls, GUI Design, Mistakes

GUI Design: Primary & Secondary Buttons

It is beginning to be more common for GUIs to attempt to help the user distinguish the most likely button (primary) from the lesser likely selections (secondary). In principle it’s an idea that can be helpful. But the implementation needs to be consistent with good GUI design.   IMPLEMENTATIONS THAT CONFUSE STANDARDS I recently logged into the web site for my car insurance and started the process of scheduling a payment. Figure 1 is a portion of a screen shot of the popup window that was displayed, which is the first panel of a wizard. There are actually several problems with this dialog, but for the purposes of this article I want to point out the Continue and Previous buttons below the table of data. Continue is the primary button as evidenced by its color and location. The Previous button … Read entire article »

Filed under: Controls, GUI Design

GUI Design: Time Out!

Any website that includes the ability to log in should have an automatic timeout feature. If logging in is needed, then obviously there must be private data which should be protected. In the past I have blogged about the problems with applications that perform functions automatically (GUI Design: Auto Outlines), but this is one case where the automatic functionality is definitely needed. There are at least two situations when I am grateful for the automatic timeouts when I forget to close an application: When I’m using a shared computer at home where others know the password. When I walk away from my desk at the office without remembering to lock the screen. It is rare for me to use a computer that is not mine, so I am very careful in those situations. But … Read entire article »

Filed under: Automatic Features, GUI Design, Mistakes