"Inductive user interfaces"

Subject: "Inductive user interfaces"
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2002 15:31:16 -0500

Thought this might be of interest to non-STC members (i.e., those who don't
receive Intercom magazine). In the December 2002 issue, Janice Carlson has
an article on "inductive user interfaces"; a slightly different version is
available online at her Web site (www.carlsononlinedesign.com). Click the
"Links/Articles" link at the top right of the screen and scroll down to the
article entitled "Why technical writers should love Microsoft's Inductive
User Interface". This article also includes a link to Microsoft's guidelines
on the subject.

There's really nothing much new and exciting about the approach; most of us
have been advocating this for years, if not decades. Microsoft has yet again
reinvented the wheel, renamed it MS Wheel (R), and hoped to take credit for
the device. What's really interesting is one of their bits of advice: "...
the Money 2000 team involved writers at the earliest stages of the design
process. This brought valuable input on screen titles when it could still
help the design. If a screen was too complex to permit a clear title, the
writers could suggest the page be redesigned. By the end of the project, the
writers and designers believed the screen titles were clearer and stronger
than in previous versions. The writers also found it easier to explain new
pages, making the job of documenting the product simpler. All team members
thought that involving all disciplines in the design phase made the product
better and easier to use."

Next time someone (usually a development manager) tells you you shouldn't be
involved early in the design phases, make sure you point them towards this
quote. Politely remind them that if Microsoft is doing it, it must be right.
<g> If you want to be a tad less sarcastic, point out that Money pretty much
pulled the carpet out from under Quicken at about this time, for the first
time replacing Quicken as editor's choice in the PC Magazine reviews. Cause
and effect? You be the judge.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

Hofstadter's Law--"The time and effort required to complete a project are
always more than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's

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