Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Elements of Interface Design

Good human-computer interface design has been researched by psychologists since the start of personal computing. The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has been a source of much of this research - not to mention innovations such as Ethernet, the laser printer, and the graphical user interface that predated the Macintosh and Windows.

The Internet has, for the most part, adopted a scrolling page metaphor for presenting information. In other words, the page scrolls down, from top to bottom, until you come to some logical end. Then there are links to other pages.

This model has been prevalent until recently when Internet content has begun to include multimedia such as audio, text, and video. It is simply not acceptable to have to scroll down to see a video. So screen design is evolving to a size that is more likely to fit common screen sizes, thus ensuring that important text and video are visible on one screen without requiring to scroll. Examples of such screens include Google Video and YouTube.

What are the basic elements of good Internet screens design? Here is a summary of the basic elements.

1) Use less text. Present only one thought or concept per screen.

2) Consistency. The navigation should be consistent for all pages.

3) Simplicity. Put upfront the most essential elements. Subcategories should be available in sub-menus.

4) Clustered layout. Ensure that groups of related content are together in a layout that does not require scrolling or searching. For example, any text, video or image that is related to a concept or thought (an article, for example), should fit on a screen without scrolling.

If you have any thoughts to share on interface design, please do comment on them here.

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