Behaviors and UI Design

Monday, July 9th, 2007

A colleague pointed me to The only two interface designs ever conceived article from Clay Barnes’s blog. I started commenting on his blog but it became too long so I thought I’d just reword it a little and post it on my own blog as a trackback.

I’m assuming the point of Mr. Barnes’s article is to introduce his readers to UI design concepts and help them think about ways to improve the user experience. But, although his article is an interesting read, I have to wonder about the benefits of grouping every design paradigm into either “Search” or “Memorized Actions.” Specifically: how could this help me build a better user interface?

A more useful approach might be to think in terms of user’s behavioral patterns. I just pulled out Designing Interfaces (O’Reilly) from my bookshelves and I’m quoting here the 12 patterns described in much more details in the first chapter of the book:

  • Self Exploration: let me explore without getting lost or getting in trouble
  • Instant Gratification: I want to accomplish something now, not later
  • Satisficing (not a spelling mistake): This is good enough, I don’t want to spend more time learning how to do it better
  • Changes in Midstream: I changed my mind about what I was doing
  • Deferred Choices: I don’t want to answer that now; just let me finish!
  • Incremental Construction: Let me change this. That doesn’t look right; let me change it again. That’s better
  • Habituation: That gesture works everywhere else; why doesn’t it work here, too?
  • Spacial Memory: I swear that button was here a minute ago. Where did it go?
  • Prospective Memory: I’m putting this here to remind myself to deal with it later
  • Streamlines Repetition: I have to repeat this how many times?
  • Keyboard Only: Please don’t make me use the mouse
  • Other’s People Advice: hat did everyone say about this?

I won’t go into more details here (you should get the book if you’re interested, you won’t regret it) but I think this a great list to keep in mind while designing a user interface. It will help you keep the user as a top priority throughout the entire design process, which is key to a good user interface.

This approach seems more practical than the “Search vs. Memorized Actions” theory in my opinion.

Filed under: Books, Web Design