User interfaces start to fade

Companies build customer communication and interaction through apps and mobiles. Graphical user interfaces (GUIs) provide communication platforms that allow user, and customer, interaction.

GUI, usability and gestures

Poor GUI designs foster ineffective communication. Just because your concept’s hardware and software, for instance, is powerful does not mean you have a powerful interface. Product success is led by interfaces so GUIs need to be well designed.

Usability focuses on how easy an interface is to learn and discover. Memorability, a usefulness example, focuses on a design’s ability to be easy to remember and learn. Non-overwhelming and simple GUIs also make hidden features easily discoverable. Usability-led designers think of stressed users, for instance, because stress impairs memory and, thus, realises that designs need to communicate to everyone, regardless of concentration span. Usability designers are inclusive and inclusive design is effective because your GUI is available to a greater number of people.

Gestures are non-verbal and non-vocal forms of communications, for example, shaking or double tapping a screen. Gestures however can cause usability issues because some users will be disadvantaged or, even worse, left out. Thorough planning and usability testing helps to overcome poor GUI designs.

User interface analogy

Good design interfaces begin to become invisible to the user. Scipi and Massicco (2013: online) also suggest that well designed user interfaces should feel like a comfortable piece of clothing, that is, positively unnoticeable. Interface designs just like emotional designs tap, mainly, into our conscious and unconscious mind.

The graphical user interface (GUI) is not about graphics it is visible through, for example, menus, possible actions that are also easily discoverable. GUI, gestures and usability are not yet balanced because some GUIs are not completely usable.

User interfaces fade & disappear

Great GUIs will one day allow many of us to effortlessly communicate and interact with technology with minimal interface interaction. Interface disappearance has been round since the 1990s and increasing hidden interfaces, see Google’s History example below, are beginning to push interfaces further away. This reduces the amount of time required by a user on a GUI.

A cafe's usability test showing eye movements.

Usability test of a cafe. Source: Azwaldo.

Twitter’s GUI viewpoint

Twitter’s mobile GUI has deeply hidden interfaces. If, for instance, you long press the “compose a tweet” button you can access your draft messages or, as another example, you select the “me” button and swipe your finger from right to left you can change Twitter accounts. These features are prime examples of faded and hidden user interfaces.

Interface design and search

Google’s search engine has undergone a lot of interface changes. If you sign into your account and go to your Google History you will see a list of websites you recently visited. Hover your mouse over any of your histories and you’ll notice a check box appears. This is an example of a hidden interface. Is it clear, without user interaction, that you can delete your Google search history? Not really. Hidden interfaces are increasing.

The presentation of search results shape how a searcher interacts with the search engine. In fact the presentation is of equal importance to ranking algorithms. Simple search interfaces also allow users to see results quickly which changes how we interact with a search engine results page.

Do you work in design? Tweet Gerald your thoughts.

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References

  1. Jacob, R.J.K. (2000) User Interfaces. In Encyclopedia of Computer Science. Fourth Edition edition. By Ralston, A. Reilly, E.D. and Hemmendinger, D. Grove Dictionaries Inc
  2. Lim, Y. (2012) Disappearing interfaces. ACM interactions. pp. 36–39
  3. Norman, D. (no date) Natural User Interfaces Are Not Natural. [Online] [Accessed on 19th October 2013]
  4. Scipi, K. and Massicco, K. (2013) Visual Design for Any Enterprise User Interface | Art School in a Box. [Online] [Accessed on 19th October 2013]
  5. Weiser, M. (1994) Creating the invisible interface: (invited talk). In UIST ’94 Proceedings of the 7th annual ACM symposium on user interface software and technology.
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