Friday, October 13, 2006

Design Pattern Conversation: What's the Best Way to Communicate Patterns? Part One

An interview with the author of "Designing Interfaces," June Tidwell ...

"Patterns communicate design ideas from one designer to another. From this simple fact, so much else follows - the importance of examples, the need for an insightful “Problem” or “Use when” statement, and the relative unimportance of strict formats and formal logic.

Different people learn in different ways. Some will appreciate detailed textual explanations in a UI pattern, but designers tend to be visually-oriented - many may actually find more value in a carefully-chosen array of examples. Many readers have told me that their favorite aspect of “Designing Interfaces” is the illustrations. These readers get the essence of the pattern from the illustrated examples, and find them inspiring as a source book for their own work. (Furthermore, I don’t believe a good pattern can even be written without examples. You have to ground the pattern in existing, real-world usage before writing the rest.)

Speaking of starting with examples, I’ve found that a new pattern arises from three key insights:

- The recognition that you’ve seen a technique or idea “work” in more than one place or context.
- An understanding of why it works. A solid understanding of cognitive and graphic-design theory helps here, even though the “why” is sometimes nothing more than “it’s just convention.”
- Insight into when it’s appropriate to use the pattern, and when it’s not."    (Continued via Yahoo! User Interface Blog)    [Usability Resources]

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