The Importance of the User Interface

In these times of metaphors, mice, widgets/controls, links, applets, and usability, the user interface is being scrutinized, studied, written about, and talked about like never before. This welcome attention, along with the proliferation of usability laboratories and product testing, has significantly raised the usability of products being presented to users today. People's voices have finally been heard above the din. Their frustration with complicated procedures and incomprehensible screens has finally become overwhelming. “We're no longer going to peacefully accept products that mess up our lives and put everything we work on at risk,” they are saying. They're also saying “That's just the way it is” is no longer tolerable as an answer to a problem. Examples of good design, when they have occurred, have been presented as vivid proof that good design is possible.

Developers listened. Greatly improved technology in the late twentieth century eliminated a host of barriers to good interface design and unleashed a variety of new display and interaction techniques wrapped into a package called the graphical user interface or, as it is commonly called, GUI (pronounced “gooey”). Almost every graphical platform now provides a style guide to assist in product design. Software to aid the GUI design process proliferates. Hard on the heels of GUIs has come the amazingly fast intrusion of the World Wide Web into the everyday lives of people. Web ...

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