Tag Archives: interface

3 things an interface does

The interface starts on an output device, for example, a monitor or projector. Interfaces are solely designed for us humans because computers do not require interfaces to compute calculations. What does an interface do?

An interface impacts memory
  • Pleasing designs
  • Functional designs
  • Emotional designs
Memorable interfaces are ones we share with family and friends since they make us think differently. Who uses an excellent interface and stays silent about it? Memorable interfaces spark conversations.
An interface allows us to remember functions. Interfaces are not just about looks, they help us learn and, even better, interact with a system.
Fantastic interfaces cause us to have emotional responses with that interface and, thus, specific web sites. If you use a beautiful site that is easy to use, functional, and designed with accessibility and usability factors that site will evoke positive emotions, for instance, joy or interest. If the site also uses fun elements the site further enhances the positive emotional state because it is fun. Who does not like fun? It is, however, worth noting that some sites require a professional tonality and fun is therefore unsuitable. Your audience is key to triggering emotional states.

Emotional wheel. Copyright of Wikimedia Commons.

An interface enhances relationships
  • Accessibility
  • Functional
  • Usable
  • Trust
  • System interaction
All interfaces are designed to establish interactions. Building relationships with your audience increases user interaction. Designs at their best are interactive relationships.

Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another.

Interactive effects can be direct, for example obtaining a useful piece of information, or indirect by, for instance, subconsciously thinking that a design is usable and pleasant to look at.
Interfaces communicate
Interfaces allow user’s to communicate, for example, the menu element enables users to press a button to go to another web page. Small buttons affect communication. The size of interface elements is vital to aid communication.
In the last few years interfaces have started to hide and disappear. It is now accepted to hide details, for example, an address might be hidden but activated once a mouse hovers over a specific region, such as, a small arrow, for instance. User’s love to learn hidden interfaces.

Values of hidden interfaces

Users love hidden interfaces because: hidden commands help with efficiency; they evoke emotional responses, for example, learning a new shortcut triggers happy emotions since hidden commands lead to a sense of achievement; users like to show hidden interfaces to their friends and family, thus hidden interfaces give a sense of social value. Embrace hidden commands. Users react positively to finding hidden commands.

At first, however, hidden commands can be mistaken for a mistake. Those users who are willing to explore will re-encounter that “mistake” and link it to a hidden interface. We love to learn. Hidden interfaces facilitate learning.

Just as humans look very different, we each learn differently too. Some users will be quicker than others whenever they learn hidden interface commands.

An example of a hidden command

If you have Twitter’s mobile app, long press the “compose new tweet” button to bring up your draft messages. Alternatively if you have more than 1 account go to your “me” section and drag your photo all the way down to the bottom. This triggers a command allowing you to switch user accounts. Each of these functions are not new sections of the app, they are simply different ways to communicate with the system.

Have you found a new hidden interface or command recently? Tweet Gerald.

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  1. Lee, M. Kim, D. Kim, H. and Nam, T. (2012) Understanding Impacts of Hidden Interfaces on Mobile Phone User Experience. CHI ’12. pp. 45–48

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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  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.

Is Bing better than Google?

Bing’s Pepsi-like “Bring It On” campaign

In a blind comparison test users reported that they preferred Bing over Google (Streling 2013: online). Another study, also reported by Sterling (2013) but conducted by Butler University, found that Google was better than ChaCha (a Q&A search engine) because results were more relevant.

Statistics on Google

Globally, Google has 83.46% market share (NetMarketShare 2013: online). Statistics are one of the best ways of evaluating a system. There are, however, other ways of evaluating search engines.

Correlation viewpoint

Based on correlation, Bing is better than Google because the correlation between term frequencies and the number of hits is better (Tian 2011:472).

Interface and marketing viewpoint

Google’s interface is better because it is ‘simple’. Marketing has helped Google become a household name. In fact, Google’s name is better. Google is a verb: Google is a doing word.

To Google means to search for something using Google.com

Having said that, to Bing it does not sound weird: Bing is also a good name, but Google is better.

Choice viewpoint

Why is it that over 80% of the population use Google when there are over 40 free access search engines to chose from? Does this choice illustrate that the majority of people prefer Google Search? Does demand reflect which services are better?

Subscription services, on the other hand, can access more information than Google and Bing combined because they have access to resources within the deep web (read what is the web post for more information). We have a range of search choice, so much so, you can either pay for information, or use free access search engines.

Do you think Bing is better than Google?

What do you prefer, Google or Bing?

Posted by: Gerald Murphy
(Twitter) @GeraldMurphySEO
(WordPress) A blog about search engines. Search “gerald murphy seo”

Updated: 13th April 2013