Monday, December 11, 2006

Mode in User Interface Design

Examples of UI problems due to mode ...

"Perhaps you had, once or twice, experienced the following: When you logon to a software system, you are required to input a user name and password. In most situations, the system remembers your last input and the system automatically pre-fills in the username edit box, and the cursor will be directly placed in the password edit box. You tried typing in your password several times, only to be complained by the system that the password is wrong. But you are very confident that both the password and the username are correct. Just at the moment when you try to smash the keyboard with your fist out of anger, you suddenly noticed that the “Caps Lock” light on the keyboard is on… should you blame yourself? Perhaps, but why can’t the software remind you in the first place?
Microsoft has made some improvements to address the above problem in the logon interface of Windows XP, as many users may already have observed its difference with the previous versions of Windows. If you haven’t noticed it before, you can try it in the following way:

Firstly, press the “Caps Lock” key on the keyboard to turn on the “Caps Lock” light (this will turn the keyboard into capitalization mode).

Then, click in the password edit box to put the cursor within it to input a password.
A prominent alert box appears which says that “Caps Lock is on. Having caps lock on may cause you to enter your password incorrectly…”.

Continue the experiment by pressing the “Caps Lock” key again to turn off the “Caps Lock” light, you will notice that the alert box disappears.

Now, Click in the user name input box, then press the “Caps Lock” key to turn the keyboard into capitalization mode again, but this time there isn’t any alert box this time.

It is not so difficult to find the regularity after trying several times: when the keyboard is in upper case mode, the alert box will only appear when the input cursor is within the password edit box.

Maybe you have figured out the reason behind this design, or maybe you have experienced its benefits: it prevents you from inputting a wrong password as a result of the keyboard inadvertently set in upper case mode."    (Continued via uiGarden)    [Usability Resources]

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