Monday, September 11, 2006

The Place for Standards in Interaction Design (IxD) and UI Design (UID)

The importance of standards and standardization ...

“Standards” – The word strikes fear in designers around the globe, and makes engineers lives so much easier that they bow at its alter. (Yes, this is an exaggeration for affect, but an important one.) But before we can dig a big deeper into standards for designers, we need to do some definition work.

... Now you have like 2-3 different graphical representations per OS available let alone how we deal with this in online environments. In my world (financial software), the convention used in Microsoft Windows Explorer of having a tree to the left and then a contents of the selected container item on the right is a de facto convention to the point of almost being a standard.

What makes it a standard is that deviation at too deep of a level from the convention in new contexts confuses people about how to use it. When using a convention that is so well grounded it is difficult for users to begin to imagine how they might use something, even with the simplest alterations. They have become accustom to the cues and signals that are learned from previous use and if there is too much similarity between the convention in the new context with that of the old context, there is little to help them to adjust to where the convention is not held to. This makes it hard for a designer to determine even through testing which parts of a convention are modifiable and which parts aren’t.

A great example of this is the way that Nokia tried to break the mobile phone dial pad convention by going back to the rotary-pulse dialing using a round number layout. It fell short of having a user use their finger and swing the number all the way around and it didn’t have the pulse sounds either. It did, though use a round layout.

... For me it comes down to the why of “standards”. Standards are specifically to make sure that interoperability between systems or between users and repeated systems across vendors is easy. A great example is the controls for music and video where the symbols for play, stop, pause, skip, fast-forward, etc. are very standard. A user can look at a VCR, DVD, CD, Cassette and know exactly what to do for the basic commands. These same standards are even translated into the equivalent virtual controls on software media players. The order of these symbols, and the style of the buttons, and their interaction models (i.e. how does the button demonstrate that it has been depressed) can be very different across physical and virtual devices. Volume control is a great example of how even the controls can be quite different with knobs, buttons, sliders (virtual), different labels (speaker with waves vs. elevating triangle), but still each is a convention in its own right if not a standard like the play and stop buttons."   (Continued via uiGarden.net)   [Usability Resources]

Rotary Dial - Usability, User Interface Design

Rotary Dial

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