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"Inductive" User Interface

Someone recently posted a link to an MSDN article titled "Microsoft Inductive User Interface Guidelines". I was curious to see exactly what MS considered to be an "IUI", and boy, was I ever underwhelmed; I think it was written by the same person who designed MS Bob.

What a horribly condescending article for everyone concerned - the reader, the users, and even the occasional passers-by on the street.

Does anyone know of any better articles on advances in UI design?

PS: The article can be found here:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnwui/html/iuiguidelines.asp

GUI Joe
Monday, May 17, 2004

Do you have any actual technical objections you can
share?

son of parnas
Monday, May 17, 2004

Technical objections? Absolutely - the main problem is that the article is attempting to present the way the UI was implemented for one specific application to be The Way Things Should Be (tm). Unfortunately, the application in question is fairly atypical.

The other problem is that their tips come under the general category of "bleeding obvious". The article can be summarized thusly:

1) Do one thing at a time on each screen
2) Pick a descriptive title for each screen

Startling revelations indeed.

An IUI is basically about turning a GUI into a storyboard much like a web app. This is only appropriate for a fairly limited subset of apps -- for example, can you imagine Adobe implementing Photoshop this way?

GUI Joe
Monday, May 17, 2004

> Startling revelations indeed.

Most applications are not done the way they are
suggesting.

Most forms i see are complicated tangles of the
shortest phrases they think they can get away with.
Control flows are usually complicated and unclear.
State machines are usually complicated and unclear.

Almost every application has large chunks where their
advice applies.

So i am not sure how obvious everything is.

son of parnas
Monday, May 17, 2004

I have to agree with "son..." here. I thought it was a very good article, especially for people who wouldn't think about those kind of things. My last job was at a large county and the team had never thought about UI (they hadn't even thought about error trapping, but I digress).

I think the point wasn't to do one thing at a time with a clear description, it was to answer for the user:

    *  What am I supposed to do now?
    * Where do I go from here to accomplish my next task?

And I think those are very valid. It's always a challenge to create an "Intuituve" UI, especially on more complex programs. 

"can you imagine Adobe implementing Photoshop this way?"

No, I can't. But I also know that basic computer users would be completely lost in that app. I know I was when I first started using it. Adobe Photoshop isn't designed to be super-intuitive, it is designed for graphic artists to get done what they need to get done.

"An IUI is basically about turning a GUI into a storyboard much like a web app. This is only appropriate for a fairly limited subset of apps"

And with this you are correct. For those apps where a storyboard design makes sense, or for those apps you need to be intuitive, this is one way. I completely agree that it is for a limited subset of apps (though I can think of quite a few situations where it would be appropriate) but that doesn't dismiss it as not valuable either.

CF
Monday, May 17, 2004

I found the contrived 'Properties' dialog box very annoying.  He intentionally sets it up without a title or context.  He doesn't explain how ANY of the problems he lists are specific to non-inductive interfaces and he doesn't offer any proof that those same problems can't occur in inductive interfaces.

And what is up with all the examples of the Money interface being unviewable closely?  My guess is they're linked that way because upon closer examination they exhibit many of the problems he complains about.

Matt
Monday, May 17, 2004

In that old thread where the MSDN article was discussed, there was also a mention of what type of use your application will have. I totally agree with the opion which basically was: if the program is used rarely/by novices then the interface needs to be this step by step and fairly few options (sort of like TurboTax), but if the program is to be used often and by professionals, then you can make it as complicated as the market will bear (a la Photoshop).

Poof
Monday, May 17, 2004

"rarely/by novices then the interface needs to be this step by step and fairly few options (sort of like TurboTax), but if the program is to be used often and by professionals, then you can make it as complicated as the market will bear (a la Photoshop). "

The problem is that ALL users are novice when they START using your program.

An even better approach is what Alan Cooper suggests:

Put the basic (novice) stuff up front. Put the power stuff just a bit farther away.

An even better (though more challenging) option is to have a global option for "Novice/expert".  This controls whether you hide all the fancy stuff from the Novice.

This is kinda like the fact that your car has a simple interface that the novice can use. But for the mechanically inclined, the flip of a switch opens the whole engine to them.

Then Mario Andretti gets to tweak the engine and Joe Average gets to just drive the card.

One car. Many users. Many sales.

Mr. Analogy
Monday, May 17, 2004

"have a global option for "Novice/expert".

That's what Joel does in FogBUGZ, I seem to remember.

If you're a novice, you get loads of "post-it" style notes next to the fields.

Steve Jones (UK)
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Yeah, We use FogBUGZ, and I know the "yellow ones". They really don't add much beside what the GUI already signals. Everything is clear enough as it is.

Unsygn
Sunday, May 23, 2004

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