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Looking for software design Guidance

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  • he_is_dave
    Hello, my position has recently expanded and I find myself responsible for a software package that is powerful but is not considered user friendly by the
    Message 1 of 6 , Feb 13 8:11 AM
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      Hello, my position has recently expanded and I find myself responsible
      for a software package that is powerful but is not considered user
      friendly by the standards of our industry. This software has a ton of
      features and configurations which I need to make the user aware of.
      I'm not a programmer but have some related experience. I've read
      desgin books but they seem more interested in philosophy that what I
      really need, which is to see different schemes and layouts for
      presenting features and configurations to the user. I think the best
      thing would be to look at some other intricate software which is
      considered usable, any suggestions?
    • Phlip
      ... Select a small but representative group of users, and ask them what one small improvement they would like to see. Maybe they want fewer clicks between two
      Message 2 of 6 , Feb 13 9:28 AM
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        he_is_dave wrote:

        > Hello, my position has recently expanded and I find myself responsible
        > for a software package that is powerful but is not considered user
        > friendly by the standards of our industry. This software has a ton of
        > features and configurations which I need to make the user aware of.
        > I'm not a programmer but have some related experience. I've read
        > desgin books but they seem more interested in philosophy that what I
        > really need, which is to see different schemes and layouts for
        > presenting features and configurations to the user. I think the best
        > thing would be to look at some other intricate software which is
        > considered usable, any suggestions?

        Select a small but representative group of users, and ask them what
        one small improvement they would like to see. Maybe they want fewer
        clicks between two frequent places.

        Implement this small change, deliver the software, let them use the
        new feature, and repeat.

        --
        Phlip
        http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?ZeekLand <-- NOT a blog!!
      • Larry Constantine
        Dave, If it s well-grounded examples and techniques you are looking for, rather than philosophy, I recommend Jenifer Tidwell s excellent book, Designing
        Message 3 of 6 , Feb 13 9:58 AM
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          Dave,

          If it's well-grounded examples and techniques you are looking for, rather
          than philosophy, I recommend Jenifer Tidwell's excellent book, Designing
          Interfaces. If you are looking for proven method, check out, Software for
          Use (I know the author, a bit pedantic, but nice chap).

          If you want to extrapolate from lots of real-world examples, I think you
          will have more fun and get more out of the archived copies of the late Brian
          Hayes "Interface Hall of Shame/Fame" (e.g.,
          http://homepage.mac.com/bradster/iarchitect/), not to be confused with more
          recent but lesser compilations on the Web.

          --Larry Constantine, IDSA, ACM Distinguished Engineer
        • Todd Moy
          Dave, I can recommend About Face 2.0 by Cooper and Reiman. Within it, I d take a look at Chapter 7: Principles and Patterns and Ch 8: Software Posture. Those
          Message 4 of 6 , Feb 13 10:14 AM
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            Dave,

            I can recommend About Face 2.0 by Cooper and Reiman. Within it, I'd take a look at
            Chapter 7: Principles and Patterns and Ch 8: Software Posture. Those deal with the overall
            interaction framework for an app. That book is right on the bounds of theory and practice;
            it might be what you're looking for.

            If you're looking for inspiration, across the web there are many people who have taken a
            stab at creating pattern languages for UI development. They range from the obvious like
            breadcrumbs and tab navigation, to more conceptual like the Organizer-Overview-Detail
            pattern (like MS Outlook). Also try googling for UI, design, and pattern: there are quite a
            few out there such as: UI Patterns and Techniques <http://time-tripper.com/uipatterns/
            Introduction>. Also fairly useful is Yahoo's design pattern library
            <http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/>. The patterns there seem fairly obvious but it
            might help you. Just be sure to have a good understanding of what your users are trying to
            accomplish. Picking and pasting widgets and controls probably won't help you unless you
            know the problem you're trying to solve.

            Other than that, I think the first step would be to break down what you mean by "not user
            friendly by industry standards." I'd recommend against jumping in and applying broad
            changes to the structure of the UI. Instead, talk to the users about what they're trying to
            accomplish, what works, and what doesn't.

            Of course, reviewing competitors and conceptually similar apps can provide some ideas.
            Be careful not to just cherry-pick ideas from them. If their implementations (metaphors,
            patterns, etc) are much different from yours, then you risk making a big tangle.

            Finally, if you can provide any more detail about your situation, that might help us better
            respond.

            Cheers,
            Todd

            --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, Phlip <phlip2005@...> wrote:
            >
            > he_is_dave wrote:
            >
            > > Hello, my position has recently expanded and I find myself responsible
            > > for a software package that is powerful but is not considered user
            > > friendly by the standards of our industry. This software has a ton of
            > > features and configurations which I need to make the user aware of.
            > > I'm not a programmer but have some related experience. I've read
            > > desgin books but they seem more interested in philosophy that what I
            > > really need, which is to see different schemes and layouts for
            > > presenting features and configurations to the user. I think the best
            > > thing would be to look at some other intricate software which is
            > > considered usable, any suggestions?
            >
            > Select a small but representative group of users, and ask them what
            > one small improvement they would like to see. Maybe they want fewer
            > clicks between two frequent places.
            >
            > Implement this small change, deliver the software, let them use the
            > new feature, and repeat.
            >
            > --
            > Phlip
            > http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?ZeekLand <-- NOT a blog!!
            >
          • Adrian Howard
            ... I ll second those recommendations. Even the second one :-) Cheers, Adrian
            Message 5 of 6 , Feb 14 3:47 AM
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              On 13 Feb 2007, at 17:58, Larry Constantine wrote:

              > Dave,
              >
              > If it's well-grounded examples and techniques you are looking for,
              > rather
              > than philosophy, I recommend Jenifer Tidwell's excellent book,
              > Designing
              > Interfaces. If you are looking for proven method, check out,
              > Software for
              > Use (I know the author, a bit pedantic, but nice chap).

              I'll second those recommendations. Even the second one :-)

              Cheers,

              Adrian
            • Jeff Patton
              ... Grr.. that s tough. I don t know of any. I do like Tidwell s Designing Interfaces for naming and demonstrating common interface design ideas, and common
              Message 6 of 6 , Feb 15 4:13 PM
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                --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "he_is_dave" <he_is_dave@...>
                wrote:
                >
                > Hello, my position has recently expanded and I find myself responsible
                > for a software package that is powerful but is not considered user
                > friendly by the standards of our industry.
                ...
                > presenting features and configurations to the user. I think the best
                > thing would be to look at some other intricate software which is
                > considered usable, any suggestions?
                >

                Grr.. that's tough. I don't know of any.

                I do like Tidwell's Designing Interfaces for naming and demonstrating
                common interface design ideas, and common user interaction patterns.
                It's worth adding to your shelf.

                If it were me, I'd go back to my typical UCD stack. Who are the
                users, why do they use the software? What are their goals when using
                it? I'd build a simple user model capturing that. I'd build a couple
                simple task models to identify both workflow, and task affinity. From
                task afinity, I'd have some idea of what belongs together on the
                screen. I could compare that with what really is together on the
                screen... and go from there. That's a one paragraph substitution for
                a couple hundred pages of something like Constantine & Lockwood's
                Usage Centered Design, or some other UCD book. It may not be much use
                without the techniques under your belt, or someone to work with you
                that is experienced that can help out.

                Oh - and your suggestion of finding software that accomplishes similar
                task for similar users and reviewing it is a good one. I steal what
                works whenever possible.

                -Jeff
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