PART One

The User Interface–An Introduction and Overview

The user interface is the most important part of any computer system. Why? It is the system to most users. It can be seen, it can be heard, and it can be touched. The piles of software code are invisible, hidden behind screens, keyboards, and the mouse. The goals of interface design are simple: to make working with a computer easy, productive, and enjoyable.

This first part of this book, Part 1, provides an introduction to the human-computer interface. Chapter 1 examines what an interface is, its importance, and its history. Chapter 2 reviews the two dominant user interfaces, the graphical user interface (GUI) and the World Wide Web (WWW or Web). GUIs are looked at in terms of their components, characteristics, and advantages over the older text-based systems. Web interfaces are compared to both GUIs and conventional printed documents. The differing characteristics of three distinct Web environments, the Internet, intranet, and extranet are also summarized. The second chapter concludes with a statement of the basic underlying principles for interface design.

Part 2 of this book presents and examines an extensive collection of interface design guidelines. It is composed of 14 steps, beginning with “Know Your User or Client” and concluding with guidelines for usability testing. A complete overview of Part 2 can be found in the Part 2 introduction.

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