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6479Re: New To Usability - Trying To Learn & Define Standards

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  • ju_and_pol
    Oct 1, 2009
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      In addition to what I said earlier on creating a UI library, I can't stress enough that there is no substitute for putting your applications in-front of target end users and getting feedback.

      If you are in a position to start testing the applications with real users then start as soon as possible. You will find the suggestions and recommendations your team make will be far richer, more informed and have more authority. This means your advice will be trusted and taken on board more than a a set of generic UI guidelines, as they are based on real data from real users combined with your expert opinion.

      There is rarely a one size fits all UI solution. The example you cite in your post "should we use an icon or text link?" is a good example of this. There is no right or wrong answer it is dependent on a whole bunch of variables that take into consideration who is using the application, what for, how they are accessing it, why and what previous experience they have.

      For instance if you are designing a menu bar, should you use icons or text links?

      A novice user will most probably need text links to explain what each menu item is. Over time the novice user may learn what icons are associated with what menu item and become less reliant on the text and use the icons to speed up the way they use the application as they become more experienced.

      An experienced user, may be familiar with the icons and pay little attention to the text links. However the text being there is not harming them in any way and will help to reinforce the function of some of the menu items they don't use that often.

      However there are some base guidelines you may want to consider on text links and icons

      If you use an icon try wherever possible accompany it with a text link, so that people who are unfamiliar with the icon are still able to understand it. At worst ensure there is a tool tip which appears in a sensible amount of time when a user hovers their mouse over it.

      Ensure your visual link language is consistent throughout the application, for default, hover and visited links. There may be exceptions to this for menu links.

      Consider using CSS to add icons to your text links. This would keep your content separate from your presentation, your code clean and semantic and your menu bar more accessible. For those that can see the icons they will make the interface less text heavy among other things.

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      Jo Frudd
      User Experience Consultant
      Flow Interactive Ltd


      Our website: www.flow-interactive.com

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