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Safari | Python Developer's Handbook -> Designing a Good Interface





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Designing a Good Interface

The user interface is part of a program that interacts with the user of the program. User interfaces take many forms. These forms range in complexity from simple command-line interfaces to the point-and-click graphical user interfaces provided by many modern GUI applications.

A GUI is built of graphical elements generally called widgets. Typical widgets include such items as buttons, scrollbars, and text fields. Widgets allow the user to interact with the program and provide the user with visual feedback about the state of the program.

Widgets do not stand alone, but rather are found within windows. Windows contain and control the layout of widgets. Windows are themselves widgets, however, they are called toplevel widgets as they can't be placed inside other widgets.

A good interface makes it easy for users to tell the computer what they want to do, for the computer to request information from the users, and for the computer to present understandable information. Clear communication between the user and the computer is the working premise of a good user interface design. Some of the qualities that a good user interface must have are clear, consistent, simple, user-controlled, direct, forgiving, feedback provider, and aesthetic.

Following the next GUI design principles should help you create more effective, user-friendly interfaces while avoiding many design errors. Unfortunately, just following design principles cannot alone guarantee success because it is entirely possible to create completely unworkable interfaces while strictly adhering to the rules.

  • Don't try to reinvent the wheel. The user must be able to anticipate the behavior of your program using knowledge gained from other programs.

  • Provide adequate user feedback. Keep the user informed about his actions.

  • Create a safe environment for exploration.

  • Struggle to make your application self-evident, by making the actions easily recognizable for the components of your application.

  • The user must be able to anticipate a widget's behavior from its visual properties.

  • View every user warning and error dialog that your program generates as an opportunity to improve your interface.

  • Do not abuse sound, color, animation, and multimedia clips. They are appropriate for education or entertainment, but effective use in other applications is difficult.

  • You better try to avoid modal behaviors. Programs using modal behavior force the user to perform tasks in a specific order or otherwise modify the user's expected responses.

  • Design your interface so that your users can accomplish their tasks while being minimally aware of the interface itself.

  • And finally, help users customize and preserve their preferred work environment.


Last updated on 1/30/2002
Python Developer's Handbook, © 2002 Sams Publishing

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Index terms contained in this section

designing
      interfaces 2nd
graphical user interfaces (GUIs)
     toolkits
            designing good interfaces 2nd
interfaces
     graphical user (GUI)
            toolkits;designing good interfaces 2nd
toolkits
     graphical user interfaces (GUIs)
            designing good interfaces 2nd
toplevel widgets
widgets 2nd

2002, O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.

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