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A usability question

I had three things already, just got another lil app to do in 2 days. Many of these users are mostly going to be first time computer users. I expect there will be some elderly people too. The total number of users for the app are going to be anywhere between 10 and 20.

Keeping this in mind, I thought

(1) This app must provide lots of space in between UI elements/controls.

(2) Each control must occupy enough room on the window so as to provide a larger clickable area. There might be people who have difficulty using the mouse.

The first form I picture in my mind, I have 12 visible fields on this UI (they're currently in my head, not yet started building, just designing at the moment). Now 12 is not a very large number, but when I think of my dad, he's above 60 years of age, does not have a very good eye sight, had a hemi-perisis attack 2 years ago and does not know how to use a computer, so he'd have problems using the mouse for quite sometime. He's not going to use this app, but then all first time users, especially those who are aged, will have similar problems.

Which one's a better idea:

(1) Larger sized controls with extra space between them. Tabs/panels to fit all the controls.

(2) Medium sized controls, all in just one pane, meaning no tabs or panes. Just a plain interface.

On the one hand I think tabs might give more room for each control, on the other they might turn out to be a nuisance for beginners, because you have to reach out to somewhere near the top of the window (a few hundred pixels below the top) in the middle of data entry, which might be a waste of time, enough for them to brain fart. And it feels quite disturbing. More importantly, you do not have a whole view of what you've entered.

Thoughts?

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Friday, March 26, 2004

What about making controls larger as the mouse approaches them? This should deal with the clicking issue.
This is easy to do with flash: not sure what you're coding in.

curious
Friday, March 26, 2004

Why not let the window accesibility features take care of it?  Just make sure your app can handle all the sizing issues associated with that.

chris
Friday, March 26, 2004

Consider using that Task oriented design principle MS is pushing. (Cant remember its name.)

Essentially you break the UI down into tasks (suitably simple for your target audience) and use one view per task.  Also, state very clearly at the top of each view what it is the user is supposed to accomplish there.

My mom for example never quite understod the folder stuff in her email app, but luckily the app starts up with the 'content pane' displaying a page with links that says "Read email" , and "write email". That she gets.

Eric Debois
Friday, March 26, 2004

>What about making controls larger as the mouse approaches them? This should deal with the clicking issue.
This is easy to do with flash: not sure what you're coding in.

No, that would be against the standard behaviour of windows applications that they will be getting used to. I am using Visual Basic here.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Friday, March 26, 2004

>Why not let the window accesibility features take care of it?  Just make sure your app can handle all the sizing issues associated with that.

I wouldn't go that far because many of these users will not even know about the accessibility features built into Windows 2000 on.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Friday, March 26, 2004

>Consider using that Task oriented design principle MS is pushing. (Cant remember its name.)

Yeah, thanks! Nice tip. Joel mentions it too. I have it in mind.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Friday, March 26, 2004

>Consider using that Task oriented design principle MS is pushing. (Cant remember its name.)


And Scott ??Berken?? too, the guy MSFT who's the column in MSDN on HCI.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Friday, March 26, 2004

Inductive UI definitely sounds like a wise choice here.

Make sure all the things the users can do with the application are listed in nice, brief sentence format, in terms relating to their task.

So put links like "Write a new message", or "Find a bank location near you", or "Protect your computer from viruses".  If you can get away from tabs entirely, you might be better off.  So instead of a tab labelled "Tax returns", with a bunch of tax return properties to be filled in, have a link like "Complete and submit your tax return", which steps through the things to fill in, more like a friendly wizard.

In general, stay away from making them have to deal with implementation-specific things like files or downloading or compression factors or whatever.

Finally, make controls and labels big.  Big fonts (14 pt or more) are easier to read, and big controls are easier to acquire with the mouse. 
High contrast colors (eg background dark vs controls light, with black labels ) are helpful too. 

andrewm
Friday, March 26, 2004

>If you can get away from tabs entirely, you might be better off. So instead of a tab labelled "Tax returns", with a bunch of tax return properties to be filled in, have a link like "Complete and submit your tax return", which steps through the things to fill in, more like a friendly wizard.

>Finally, make controls and labels big. Big fonts (14 pt or more) are easier to read, and big controls are easier to acquire with the mouse.
High contrast colors (eg background dark vs controls light, with black labels ) are helpful too.


Those are exactly the two choices that I think contradict each other. Big controls fighting for space or smaller ones in the same pane?

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Friday, March 26, 2004

I suddenly realize I should've put this question in the "Ask Joel" forum to the guru himself. Never mind. I think I'll try cross posting. If he doesn't answer, then my bad luck.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Friday, March 26, 2004

>And Scott ??Berken?? too, the guy MSFT who's the column in MSDN on HCI.

What the hell have I written there? Its 5:44 AM and that was written an hour or so ago, so you'll excuse me.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Friday, March 26, 2004

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