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GUI Design: Error Messages

I’ve blogged about error messages before. The basic rules for error messages are the same as for everything else in a GUI. Remember that users are simply trying to get something done, so don’t slow them down in any way unless it’s absolutely necessary. Error messages may be necessary on occasion, but designers and developers should always start with these two goals in mind: Remove the need for an error message whenever possible by not allowing users to make the mistake in the first place. Make each message clear and as easy to resolve as possible. (This includes keeping the message visible while it is being resolved and not requiring anything like a mouse click to dismiss the message.) Thinking carefully about these goals should result in a design that will be much … Read entire article »

Filed under: GUI Design

GUI Design: Empty Lists

Users should be told when a list is empty. Especially when the given feature can take some time to generate results, the user should be informed when the results are in. A user should not be required to guess whether the area is blank because there is nothing to show or just because the app isn’t done yet.   WINDOWS® OPERATING SYSTEMS I was reminded recently of how inconsiderate it is to not tell users that a list is empty. I was using the Explorer® on a Windows® XP system to look manually through some folders that I hadn’t used for a couple of years, so I wasn’t sure exactly what I would find. The system is a little slow and some of the folders were very full, so I occasionally needed to wait for … Read entire article »

Filed under: GUI Design, Mistakes

GUI Design: Links vs. Buttons

   Real Link? Buttons have been around as long as GUIs have. They were initially only used to perform actions. When hyperlinks (or links) were first created, their usage was obvious: it was a method for linking documents to each other and for quickly jumping from one to another (hence the name hyperlink). Unfortunately, the difference between the two has been blurred such that in many GUIs there appears to be no rhyme or reason as to when either is used, other than the whim of the designer or developer. Buttons are often made to look like links and vice versa. Part of the reason for this is probably the fact that menu items usually look more like links, but often act more like actions; this is also true for the controls … Read entire article »

Filed under: Controls, GUI Design, Mistakes, Navigation

GUI Design: Consistent Terminology

It’s difficult enough for users to try to understand a new application without confusing them with inconsistent terminology. One of the recommendations made by Jeff Johnson in his book GUI Bloopers 2.0 is that every project should have a lexicon. This lexicon is a complete list of terminology that will be used throughout the GUI and documentation. I thought this was a good idea long before I read it in Johnson’s book and appreciated his treatment of the subject. Not having a lexicon that defines what will and will not be used can lead to two problems: More than one term may be used to describe the same concept. Some terms may be used for more than one concept.   EXAMPLE: DELETE OR REMOVE? The terms Delete and Remove can reasonably used interchangeably in written and spoken English, … Read entire article »

Filed under: GUI Design, Mistakes