Friday, March 28, 2008

UI guidelines: one reason the Mac shines, Windows sucks

iPhone UI guidelines ...

"Is there a method behind the madness of the Windows experience and the elegance of the Macintosh? One reason can be seen with just one look at the human interface principles found on Apple’s and Microsoft’s developer sites.

This exploration was sparked by a blog post on O’Reilly’s Digital Media by FJ de Kermadec, a Paris-based designer and author. He wrote about several differences between Windows Vista and Mac OS X and the user expectations for each platform.

According to Kermadec, said some new users are either afraid of computers or bored by them. They don’t care about the metaphors of the user interface or the niceties of icons, menus and widgets.

Here, Vista’s start menu is brilliant: it shoves 99% of what you may want to do in one single menu, allowing users to immediately “get into” their tasks. Calling it “Start” in the old days was a very good move in that it clearly told users to “start here.”

From that menu, Vista will open a sort of window-meets-web-page, filled with buttons and icons, that clearly tells the user, in plain English, what to do. There is even a little colorful shield icon next to some links to suggest some kind of big security system is protecting the computer. When clicked, these links cause a playful cursor to appear and a big reaction – screen dimming. A strange, awkwardly worded dialog will pop up but that does not matter: there is a big button in there to proceed, which the user can now click, safe in the knowledge the computer is doing some thinking for them. Then, the appropriate window will load, with buttons bigger and brighter than the last one.

Yayy! The average user feels like a real computer user now: look at how the big machine reacts to his every whim.

... Human Interface Design Principles [I added a sentence or two to each item in order to match the Microsoft version. In the Apple guide, each of the topics links to a page or more of further material filled with concepts.]

* Metaphors. Take advantage of people’s knowledge of the world by using metaphors to convey concepts and features of your application.
* Reflect the User’s Mental Model. The user already has a mental model that describes the task your software is enabling.
*Explicit and Implied Actions. Each Mac OS X operation involves the manipulation of an object using an action.
* Direct Manipulation. Allow the user, not the computer, to initiate and control actions.
* User Control. Allow the user, not the computer, to initiate and control actions.
* Feedback and Communication. Feedback and communication encompass far more than merely displaying alerts when something goes wrong. Instead, it involves keeping users informed about what’s happening by providing appropriate feedback and enabling communication with your application.
* Consistency. Consistency in the interface allows users to transfer their knowledge and skills from one application to another."    (Continued via ZDNet)    [Usability Resources]

MAC Users - Usability, User Interface Design

MAC Users

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