Friday, April 27, 2007

Interfaces That Flow: Transitions as Design Elements

Using design considerations to control the feel of a website ...

"Actively influencing a person’s emotional state throughout an experience—in particular, his or her sense of anticipation, involvement, and desire for a certain outcome—is still an evolving concept in the realm of user interface design. However, this is very familiar territory for makers of music, film, television, and video games. While UX designers may not be storytellers, we can create more engaging product user experiences by learning from their examples.

Many UX designers—myself included—approach projects from a combination of information architecture, information design, interaction design, and visual design perspectives. These disciplines and their methods are fundamentally different from those people use to construct the continuous linear narratives we see and hear in film, video, and music. However, as the technologies for creating interactive user experiences become more robust—especially in the realm of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs)—we have an opportunity to draw upon a much wider visual vocabulary. This will also make narrative elements such as timing, pacing, and rhythm increasingly important. Using such design elements may enable us to move users from mere understanding to engagement and, ultimately, to immersion in our digital products and services.

The Pause That Refreshes

The concept of a pause is lacking in many user interface designs. I’m not referring to an option to halt playback in midstream—as in an audio or video system—or the kind of delay users experience as a microprocessor churns through its calculations, but to a brief rest before the next step in a task. There is nothing more inorganic and unnatural than a system that has no state of rest.

Without question, the influence of the information age has decreased our attention span. We jump from link to link, from screen to screen. As UX designers, we may have a picture in our minds of the users of a Web site or application—people who are harried and busy and just trying to get their tasks done. And it may be for such a person that we design user interfaces. At some point in their tasks, though, users must pause to take a breath.

When used appropriately, a pause can create anticipation, clear the decks, and remove the clutter that competes for a user’s attention, enabling a user to more effectively focus on what comes next. The pause contributes to the effective pacing or flow of the user experience.

A great example of pacing at Design by Fire, the blog of Andrei Michael Herasimchuk, uses a well-timed fade out/fade in transition between content selections (shown in Figures 1 and 2). Once a user clicks a menu item, the current content fades out, then the new content fades in. The transition provides a pause in the action."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

Fade-in Controlling Pause - Usability, User Interface Design

Fade-out Controlling Pause

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