We are all familiar with a variety of common heuristics which we can use to measure, test and design interfaces. However, there are a few that tend to get overlooked, but like all good children they deserve their day in the sun! In this post I’ll just touch on some of the key aspects of these. A quick search on the web will give whole reams of further information should you be interested.
Window Organisation: By decreasing the time the user spends adjusting, moving and re-sizing windows, we can increase the amount of time they spend concentrating on their real goal, and consequently increase user-satisfaction. By observing the relative locations and size of spawned windows in relation to the parent window and other related windows one can judge whether the placement is optimal. If a certain task requires the user to move windows around, and re-size them to achieve their goal, this is a sure-fire indication of bad usability.
Some key characteristics of good window organization are
- simple user navigation
- minimal and simple user window management
Readability: The textual aspect of interfaces is very important. Much of the information imparted by a UI is textual, therefore the layout and form of the text has a significant impact on the ease with which the user assimilates information. Since text is one of the primary sources of information for users it is important how it is worded. If the text is worded poorly then the users will perceive the interface poorly. Certain standards do exist for text size, labelling, fonts and formatting.
Clarity: Crowded screens are difficult to understand and hence are difficult to use. Experimental results show that the overall density of the screen should not exceed 40%, whereas local density within groupings shouldn’t exceed 62%. Items that are logically connected should be grouped together to communicate their implied association, and can be tested against. Clarity can be empirically determined through ratios of signal to noise at the interface.
There are many more less lauded UI heuristics out there, and in the coming weeks I’ll come back and talk more about these.