User Interface Design

The user interface (UI) is one of the keys to a successful application. An application will be a failure if people can't use it easily and effectively, just as surely as if the application were too buggy to run. A good UI is elegant and efficient, exposing the functional requirements to the users clearly and intuitively.

For a program running in the Windows world, the Windows UI provides a foundation of expectations and capability. For example, most people today expect their applications to be Windows applications, as opposed to console, or DOS-style, command-line applications. The .NET Framework and the underlying Windows API provide the capability to satisfy these expectations. The Windows environment also shapes the way Windows applications look and feel. Windows applications look and feel different from, for example, Macintosh applications. For that matter, the Windows 98 UI is significantly different from Windows XP. On the other hand, all these graphical user interfaces (GUIs) share common design elements, such as windows, scrollbars, buttons, text boxes, tree views, and hyperlinks.

In a Windows application, you will find several broad categories of UI design: single-document interface (SDI), multiple-document interface (MDI), Explorer-style interface, and dialog boxes. The first three categories will be covered in this chapter. Dialog boxes will be covered in the next chapter.

UI Principles

Good UI design is both an aesthetic and a technical endeavor. Although ...

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