RE: User Interface Design Standards

Subject: RE: User Interface Design Standards
From: mlist -at- safenet-inc -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2006 10:14:14 -0500

I wish I had some of the problems that you folks have.

My documentation is in the form of WebHelp, in anticipation of a GUI or
web-based interface that has yet to materialize. It's been over two years,
now. The product interface remains command-line.

I offered to convert many of my Help pages into text blobs for use with the
command-line "help", which is currently just syntax definition (barely) and
obscure error messages. In fact, I made several dozen of them, complete with
notes on where they should go. Nope. No time to include them, sorry.

Well, since we've bought a company or two that makes similar/related
products and does provide a GUI or web interface, I now have hope.

Anyway, with respect to the two styles of presentation in the user
interface, when we finally go to a GUI/Web-page, I hope that our
configuration and management will be forms-based.

I want related items to be on one page, as much as possible, so you fill in
labelled fields (each with associated drop-down text or Help page, if you
need it), and click "Submit" or some other less-obsequious "Make it so"
So, my preference would be for (say) network config items to all be on one
page (IP, hostname, gateways, etc.).
The equivalent would be a command-line entry where you can pile in a mess of
options to a single command.
Device-initialization items would be on another page (or scattered across
pages that dealt more with user tasks than with system-design-imposed

After the first time, if you wanted to re-configure a given area, all the
existing values would be pre-filled in the form, so you need only modify the
desired ones, and the rest are right in your face, so you can decide

That would contrast with a "step you through it" style where small
single-field dialogs would pop up sequentially, so you'd constantly be
filling one disembodied field and clicking next, next, next... in other
words, the very reason that many power users prefer the command-line.

By the way, we retain a command-line interface for benefit of big customers
who like to script everything. I'd like to see both options, so that our
product could address a wider market. Chicken-and-egg. You don't want to
sell your stuff in smaller lots if it needs a fair bit of hand-holding to
make it work.... hand-holding of a single big customer's IT department is
much more cost-effective than hand-holding a large number of individual
purchasers. But the big customer already exists and their demands must be
met, so you keep putting off making the product more user/task oriented and
the Help more relevant, because resources are limited.... reality sometimes
bites. :-)

Kevin (way behind the curve)

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