Re: UI Design in Windows Software

Subject: Re: UI Design in Windows Software
From: Lydia Wong <lydiaw -at- FPOINT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 9 Jul 1998 10:04:55 -0400


You do have a wonderful opportunity. Good interface design can help the user
so much, and, for you as the writer, it can be so fun to be involved in the
product in this capacity!

Inevitably, you will run into disagreements within a team though, because we
each have individual preferences. Your following statement struck me,

In designing the new interface for the Windows product, the programmer
types seem very concerned with doing things that are less likely to
confuse the Windows-newbie . . . . Their workarounds, inevitably,
cause the design to veer further from the Windows metaphors we're trying
to emulate.

Quite honestly, I think those two goals are incompatible. You either make
things use the Windows metaphors, or you don't. In the long run, if your
users are moving to Windows, the Windows metaphors will be all that they see
and use in all the other programs they have. If you "veer" from the Windows
metaphors, in time your users will see your software as the odd-ball and ask
themselves and you why didn't you use the standard Windows interface design.

So, you and the team need to review the "standard Windows interface design."
Microsoft provides the standards in "The Windows Interface Guidelines for
Software Design." (ISBN 1-55615-679-0) (We are wondering here if there will
be a new edition of this guide coming on the heels of the release of Windows
98; however, we didn't see any mention of it recently on the Microsoft Press
web site.)

Get a copy of the book. Review how Microsoft says to create your interface.
When you as a team disagree, see what Microsoft says. Then either follow it,
or have very good reasons not to do so. We all might not like it that
Microsoft is taking over everything, but the good news for the user is that
products look more alike and have very similar interfaces. Sometimes
standards can be good, even if they are created by
Microsoft. ; )

Good luck!

Lydia Wong
Technical Writer
FarPoint Technologies, Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From: Hope Cascio <hcascio -at- GTE -dot- NET>
Date: Wednesday, July 08, 1998 11:57 p.m.
Subject: UI Design in Windows Software

>I've recently had a wonderful opportunity within my company to be a part
>of a MSF (Microsoft Solutions Framework) team developing a new interface
>design for our product. MSF teams are very neat things which pull
>together people from programming, development, testing, support, and
>user ed to solve a problem. Reminds me of the Quality Improvement teams
>I used to take part in at a former employer.
>Anyway, I've found a difference in opinion among the team members that
>seems to take (and this is, of course, my very subjective viewpoint) a
>divide between the user advocate types (support, user ed) and the
>programmer/developer types.
>The product we're designing for is a few years old, and this is going to
>be the first time it's offered without its DOS counterpart, which was a
>very popular workhorse. Our user base is for the most part almost
>completely inexperienced with Windows, and often is only familiar with
>the computer as that thing they have to turn on to use our old DOS
>In designing the new interface for the Windows product, the programmer
>types seem very concerned with doing things that are less likely to
>confuse the Windows-newbie-- like, for instance, keeping tree metaphors
>very short so the user doesn't ever have to use the scroll bar to
>discover more folders at the bottom. Their workarounds, inevitably,
>cause the design to veer further from the Windows metaphors we're trying
>to emulate. Don't get me wrong-- some of their ideas I think are good--
>like always making sure there are keyboard navigation alternatives, not
>just for DOS types who don't like mouses very much, but for
>accessibility to the disabled.
>The idea first presented to the group, and the one we're all laboring
>under, is that the new interface should be MSIE/Windows Explorer-esque.
>My argument pretty much from the beginning has been that we should stick
>fairly closely to the standards set up by MS Windows and the various MS
>products. I can give several valid reasons for this. I can also see
>the other side, which is, that our user base is very DOS-oriented, used
>to the old product, resistant to new technology, and "just want to get
>their job done." This is probably more of an opinion poll than anything
>else, but if anyone could provide a response with logical arguments for
>one way of doing things or the other. If you want to keep it all
>offlist, I'll compile and organize the responses and post them when the
>flow trickles.
>Hope Cascio
>"Just because a network architecture has been designed to survive
> nuclear holocaust doesn't mean it is immune to WebTV or a bunch
> of sociopathic 12 year olds." -Lon Stowell,

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