User Interface Design

Subject: User Interface Design
From: John Bell <johnb -at- C-STONE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 16 Aug 1996 09:06:22 -0400

kmayer%touch_technology -at- notesgw -dot- compuserve -dot- com writes:

> I wonder how many of you software documenters are consulted in the user
> interface design process. Do you have a lot of input? Do you have any
> guidelines for what constitutes a good UI design? I've got some ideas for a
> better UI, but I haven't much training or education (self-inflicted or formal)
> in UI design. Can you recommend any books?

At my previous jobs tech writers had no formal input to design. Some
developers were receptive to comments. Unfortunately, these developers
would design their windows, then show them to us, and we would have to
convince them to alter an existing design.

At my current company my boss is trying to get me in the loop with the
developers. I've attended a few design meetings and the results have been
mildly positive.

I've only read one book on user interface design, and that is "About Face"
by Alan Cooper. Cooper is the guy who created Visual BASIC. He is very
opinated and more than half of his opinions make sense. Most of the book
is negative, he routinely bashes any hint of bad design. In many (but not all)
cases he offers a method of fixing the problem. After reading his book you'll
know what NOT to do, but you won't necessarily know what TO DO.

His writing style is engaging, I had a hard time putting the book down. Although
the book is thick, 580 pages, I zipped through it because I kept waiting to see
what he had to say next. He isn't shy about showing a window from some
app he's bought and putting a caption under it that tells exactly how stupid
he thinks the programmer is. He's also quick to praise when he sees
something he likes (i.e. tooltips).

--- John Bell
johnb -at- c-stone -dot- com
johnbell -at- mnsinc -dot- com

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