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Thread OT - Looking for a good read on application UI design
Tue, Nov 3 2015 10:15 PMPermanent Link

Adam H.

Hi,

I'm looking to improve on my application design - especially when it
comes to the look and feel of it, or the user interface.

Searching on the net, it seems most of what I find is dedication to
webpages, and not windows based applications.

I was wondering if anyone has come across a good blog, read, etc about
how to design good looking applications.

Things such as color use, how to group things and space things out when
there are many fields to make it easier for the user to identify, labels
(above the fields or to the sides), etc - just something to refresh me,
and get me more up to speed on current ideas.

Has anyone come across anything like this that's a good resource?

Cheers

Adam.
Wed, Nov 4 2015 4:04 AMPermanent Link

Roy Lambert

NLH Associates

Team Elevate Team Elevate

Adam

>I'm looking to improve on my application design - especially when it
>comes to the look and feel of it, or the user interface.
>
>Searching on the net, it seems most of what I find is dedication to
>webpages, and not windows based applications.
>
>I was wondering if anyone has come across a good blog, read, etc about
>how to design good looking applications.
>
>Things such as color use, how to group things and space things out when
>there are many fields to make it easier for the user to identify, labels
>(above the fields or to the sides), etc - just something to refresh me,
>and get me more up to speed on current ideas.
>
>Has anyone come across anything like this that's a good resource?

Nope, and I suspect that with the exception of a few simple guidelines (as is the case with good web design *) I suspect that it leans heavily onto a specific users interpretation / desires.

One of the most abused phrases is " user friendly" often coupled with intuitive. One of the most horrendous, to me, systems I ever saw was loved by the users because they'd been using it for years and had grown very familiar with it.

With that rant aside - why do you feel the comments about good web design are inappropriate for windows based applications - both address the same issue with the exception that desktop apps are usually a bit more responsive than web apps for loading data etc.

Also what are you using to give users a choice about colours?

Roy Lambert

* I'm currently going through my database and removing companies that don't have a website (ie they probably don't exist). I think a lot of people out there haven't read the guidelines for web design - I'm pretty sure they say that dark gray font on a black background is a big no no.
Wed, Nov 4 2015 4:33 AMPermanent Link

Matthew Jones

Roy Lambert wrote:

>  why do you feel the comments about good web design are inappropriate
> for windows based applications

That was going to be my question. I think that a lot of the same things
apply.

But for resources, look to Mark Miller and Ray Konopka as two people
who have done some good things on UI.

Top considerations for UI design
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBBBFrW8A7A

Search for Mark Miller on DotNetRocks. His latest:
http://www.dotnetrocks.com/?show=1175


(Mark did CodeRush for Delphi back in the day, and now works for Dev
Express.) Hah, I see that his talk is coming to PluralSight...
http://www.sgui.com/ Indeed, have a look at
http://www.sgui.com/research for some interesting insights.

None of this is web or desktop specific, it is all the same stuff
nowadays.

--

Matthew Jones
Wed, Nov 4 2015 8:30 AMPermanent Link

Roy Lambert

NLH Associates

Team Elevate Team Elevate

Adam


You had to ask this when I'm cleaning up my database - stage 1 - make sure the company has a website. Fortunately I have only 1019 companies to go (probably means about another 800 website to look at).

Here's a couple of Roy's rules distilled over the last week or so:

1. Don't hide things - trying to find contact information on some of these websites is a non-trivial matter - you get the impression they don't want to talk to you
2. Don't use misleading titles - I just had one where there was a link entitled "Contact Details" but wasn't - the contact details were under "Company Info"
3. Where possible don't use hidden right click menus
4. Where ever you can use words not clever little icons
5. Don't get clever - and definitely don't get carried away by your own cleverness / coolness (I've already mentioned dark gray on black)

OK calming down - rant over for now - big breath and back to the data clensing

Roy Lambert
Wed, Nov 4 2015 8:48 AMPermanent Link

Raul

Globestar Systems

Team Elevate Team Elevate

On 11/3/2015 10:15 PM, Adam H. wrote:
> I was wondering if anyone has come across a good blog, read, etc about
> how to design good looking applications.

What is considered good looking is an interesting question - i still one
my old co-workers (in sale side of thigns) saying our app need to be
"made more sexy" without actually specifying what he means.

And of course with business apps there is the functionality tradeoff as
user friendly generally means not stuffing the UI with controls.

> Things such as color use, how to group things and space things out when
> there are many fields to make it easier for the user to identify, labels
> (above the fields or to the sides), etc - just something to refresh me,
> and get me more up to speed on current ideas.

> Has anyone come across anything like this that's a good resource?


MS has published their guidelines for a while. One (semi) current copy
appears to be here (though fairly basic stuff based on quick look) :

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/ff728831(v=vs.85).aspx

There is also universal windows apps one (which covers mobile and the
new win 10 - whether we both agree that win 10 is step forward is
another discussion Frown  ) :

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-ca/library/windows/apps/hh465424.aspx



Not windows anymore but Apple has had good guidelines for a while
(search for "OS X Human Interface Guidelines") and for mobile they have
similar iOS guidelines. Finally there is a Google new material design as
well but this is very much mobile focused.

Raul
Wed, Nov 4 2015 9:30 AMPermanent Link

Matthew Jones

Raul wrote:

> "made more sexy"

That's also an interesting one. I have a colleague who is into data
presentation and he hates things like 3D graphs with a passion. They
look very pleasing visually, but the 3D shape, the box, the shaded
background, the twinkle as it appears, they all detract from the
information which you are trying to show which could be done with a
black outline column, or line, or whatever. Okay, make it dark blue
instead, but don't go overboard. After he complained, I made the pretty
graphs optional...

--

Matthew Jones
Wed, Nov 4 2015 9:53 AMPermanent Link

Raul

Globestar Systems

Team Elevate Team Elevate

On 11/4/2015 9:30 AM, Matthew Jones wrote:
> That's also an interesting one. I have a colleague who is into data
> presentation and he hates things like 3D graphs with a passion. They

I would agree with him in some cases - i personally find that data that
is a basic x/y plot of multiple data sets are lot easier to read on 2d
than 3d (or at least in our case the 3d draws the "mountain range" for
each dataset using different colour and then changes your view point so
while it looks pretty i find it hard to read actual numbers - for
overall "10,000 foot view" type analysis they are ok though).

Raul
Wed, Nov 4 2015 10:33 AMPermanent Link

Roy Lambert

NLH Associates

Team Elevate Team Elevate

Matthew


>That's also an interesting one. I have a colleague who is into data
>presentation and he hates things like 3D graphs with a passion. They
>look very pleasing visually, but the 3D shape, the box, the shaded
>background, the twinkle as it appears, they all detract from the
>information which you are trying to show which could be done with a
>black outline column, or line, or whatever. Okay, make it dark blue
>instead, but don't go overboard. After he complained, I made the pretty
>graphs optional...

I thoroughly agree with your colleague about 3D graphs. I'd extend it to the whole UI though. Whilst presentation is important all to often I've seen information lost in presentation.

Roy
Wed, Nov 4 2015 4:21 PMPermanent Link

Adam H.

Hi Roy,

Thanks for your reply...

> With that rant aside - why do you feel the comments about good web design are inappropriate for windows based applications - both address the same issue with the exception that desktop apps are usually a bit more responsive than web apps for loading data etc.

I don't have a huge experience with web design but primarily I want to
konw what is and isn't available for me as an application developer.

I was looking more for stuff as to how to use group boxes, align
properties (alclient/altop), etc - how to lay out various forms and
different options for components.

I've also seen come groupboxes where the top is completely bolded /
shaded with the caption embedded - (similar to the forms title bar) as
opposed to a single line border with the caption in the middle which I
like the looks of as well.

These things combined have me wondering how many ideas, etc I'm not
aware of - and I thought a good read dedicated to developers as opposed
to websites may give me a better idea of what's available and what's not.

From a color perspective I guess websites and apps would probably be
similar.

> Also what are you using to give users a choice about colours?

At this stage my applications have used mostly the same colors, and use
things such as clWindowText, clwindowxxxx, etc - so they can change the
color with the theme of their computer.

In the end, I see some people who just tend to develop really nice
looking applications - and then I look at mine and think they could do
with a tweak. Wink

Cheers

Adam.
Wed, Nov 4 2015 4:22 PMPermanent Link

Adam H.

Hi Matthew,

Fantastic -thanks for that. Mark Miller - I knew that name rung a bell.
I remember seeing him when he was in Australia near the turn of the
century doing a demonstration of Coderush at a Borland conference.

Cheers

Adam.
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