The blueprint for a house (its architectural design) is not complete without a representation of doors, windows, and utility connections fo...
The blueprint for a house (its architectural design) is not complete without a representation of doors, windows, and utility connections for water, electricity, and telephone (not to mention cable TV). The “doors, windows, and utility connections” for computer software make up the interface design of a system.
Interface design focuses on three areas of concern: (1) the design of interfaces between software components, (2) the design of interfaces between the software and other nonhuman producers and consumers of information (i.e., other external entities), and (3) the design of the interface between a human (i.e., the user) and the computer. In this chapter we focus exclusively on the third interface design category—user interface design.
In the preface to his classic book on user interface design, Ben Shneiderman states:
Frustration and anxiety are part of daily life for many users of computerized information systems. They struggle to learn command language or menu selection systems that are supposed to help them do their job. Some people encounter such serious cases of computer shock, terminal terror, or network neurosis that they avoid using computerized systems.
The problems to which Shneiderman alludes are real. It is true that graphical user interfaces, windows, icons, and mouse picks have eliminated many of the most horrific interface problems. But even in a “Windows world,” we all have encountered user interfaces that are difficult to learn, difficult to use, confusing, unforgiving, and in many cases, totally frustrating. Yet, someone spent time and energy building each of these interfaces, and it is not likely that the builder created these problems purposely.