Rich UI Techniques for Creating a Nice User Experience
The user interface (UI) is the “gateway” to viewing and manipulating data inside of your software application. Bad user interfaces can lead to wasted time and contempt for use of the application among other things. End users will often be using your application day in and day out as a job. Making the software as easy as possible to navigate and use should be a top priority, but often isn’t. I periodically hear end users say, “Our current application is confusing and hard to use.” Or, “Using this application is counter intuitive.” I try very hard to be sure that is not said about custom software that I’m a part of creating. I’m not saying it has to be beautiful, but what I am saying is try not to make it confusing. I realize that applications often do very complex tasks that require user input, so focusing on simplicity of getting those tasks completed or breaking tasks up to simpler pieces is often a good work around. Using rich UI techniques to design the user experience (UX) to be simple enough to use without needing documentation is a huge win, although you should always have documentation on how to use your application.
What Do I Use?
This is the million dollar question. In my experience, using some nice user experience or rich UI techniques supplemented by one or two nice control libraries should do the trick. No matter what platform your application may use, such as ASP.NET, WinForms, Silverlight, WPF, or Windows Phone 7, most often some company has developed a control library for it. Remember, the controls are supplementary to the overall experience of using the application. Focusing on simplicity of form and data layout and design will be key points no matter what you are developing your application with. Taking these tools and patterns coupled with application requirements and end user interviews should give plenty of ideas for creating a rich UI and desirable user experience.
Rich UI and UX Design Patterns
There are many great user experience or rich user interface design patterns out there; all you have to do is look. Remember, these topics are encountered quite frequently and often there is no one correct way to go about creating a user experience. There are usually many “right” ways to do a user experience. What’s important is choosing the best one(s) that give a great look and feel to using the application.
Wrapping it up
The struggle is to have your application convey complex actions in a simple format, as well as taking simple things your application does and keeping them simple. Listening to end users is a key aspect in implementing rich UI techniques and getting the user experience right. Trying to address exactly what the end user doesn’t like about a previously used application will help move the process along. Remember, someone will likely be using this application on a daily basis. Try to conduct end user interviews if that is a possibility. I find it helps to try to put myself in the end user’s shoes. Combining end user feedback with user experience design patterns and control libraries will enable you to create a rich UI and user experience for your application.
Please share any of your experiences dealing with rich UI techniques and creating a nice user experience if you are either a developer or end user. I’d like to hear them.