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Bloopers book highlights need for better GUI

Posted: 19 Jan 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:GUI. Embedded  touchscreen  user interface 

Amid the plethora of consumer devices that flood the market (e.g., smartphones, notebooks and tablets), the emphasis arising from the majority of manufacturers leans increasingly toward on how fast the device is, how powerful the processors run or how large the storage space tends to be. For the most part, a regular consumer could care less about every bit of chip found on a gadget, let alone what these miniature contraptions can do. Ultimately, what matters most is real-world experience, with particular focus on graphical user interfaces (GUIs).

With the rising popularity of touchscreen controls, the need for well-considered GUIs has become paramount. This book can help.

Courtesy of fellow editor "Max" Maxfield, I recently acquired a copy of GUI Bloopers 2.0 by Jeff Johnson of UI Wizards. I found it an interesting read chock full of helpful suggestions that should probably be in the library of any development team tasked with developing a GUI. Given the prevalence of touchscreens and graphical panels today, that group probably means most embedded developers.

One of the first things you notice about the book is that it avoids criticising, embarrassing or amusing with tales of GUIs gone wrong. As Johnson pointed out in his introduction, "My aim is not to provide a parade of UI howlers.... My purpose is to help GUI designers and developers learn to produce better GUIs." To this end he provides concrete examples of both ill- and well-formed designs, articulating the nature of a blooper, the probable reasons for its occurrence, and steps needed to mitigate the situation.

The main text starts by articulating nine basic principles of good GUI design, explaining in detail the meaning, application and value in following each principle. Many of these principles, such as "facilitate learning" and "deliver information, not just data" centre on the basic premise that GUIs need to be designed for the benefit of the user, not the developer. While this may seem ridiculously obvious, Johnson quickly points out how easy it is to unconsciously deviate from this principle or be unaware of the user's real needs. He provides many specific principles and detailed sub-principles that highlight various aspects of what it means to focus on the user, and then provides suggestions on how to achieve that focus.

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