people are artists. The purpose of any computer program is to allow them
to more freely express their skills by taking on some of the less skillful
tasks. A well-designed user interface will keep repetitive tasks to a
minimum, give as much information as possible to the user, and do it easily
an ad tracking system such as Xpance, almost all the information is available
from other sources on the computer network. An effective user interface
will not ask users to enter information (via the keyboard) that is already
available or that can be selected with the mouse. The advantage of this
is obvious. If you click on information, its more likely to be accurate
than if you use the keyboard.
user interface allows users to do several things at once. They click a
button and lots of things happen in the background. The program can remove
points of frustration and allow people to concentrate on using their skills.
If you take people who enjoy their work and give them a system that makes
their jobs easier, you make them more that much more effective. Its
that simple. Give them a system that asks them to think in a new way,
and you're asking for trouble.
This is why
the user interface is so important and it's the reason why Morcor Solutions
spent more than six months designing and redesigning the user interface
before it started any meaningful work under the hood.
Considerations when designing the interface
uses terminology newspaper, magazine and print media people understand.
Ad builders, Creative Artists and Managers all feel at home with the terms
that Xpance uses. Ads are tracked based on status. For example, a typical
Ad Status is "Proof". Ads are "Sent to Proof" within Xpance in order to
provide information critical to knowing where Ads are in the System. Pre-Press
Individuals, Sales Representatives and others know what a Proof is.
to talk to your users and understand their needs. Xpance was designed
by newspaper people with several years experience in production, and a
particularly keen interest in the interface. Xpance is not a program designed
by engineers with no knowledge of the business aspects. It's designed
by people who have been through the same problems that its users face.
It automates manual and redundant tasks. Morcor continuously listens to
what customers want and strives to build in functionality to improve their
learnability can get in the way of usability. With Xpance we knew that
learnability was important (our clients don't want to wait even one month
before they are productive). Usability beyond the initial period was also
crucial. With the help of our clients, we came up with a design that makes
users effective with a minimum of training and keeps them efficient after
the initial teething period. (At one site, two users accepted the challenge
of learning the new system without training or documentation. In two days
they had it mastered.)
goal of the interface
goal of the Xpance interface is to access information quickly and accurately,
using minimum keystrokes. We spent a lot of time devising "one-click features"
which leaves the operator feeling powerful, happy, and productive. Most
of the time, users need hardly use the keyboard at all to track ads.
essential. Like the stars in the sky, certain features and buttons must
be in a certain place on the screen so users feel at home. Must, must,
must! We spent a lot of time talking to users about the positioning of
buttons. Closer to the top means a certain thing, over towards the right
means another. There is a certain personality to the user interface that
the users get to know like a reliable friend.
clicks, minimum keystrokes, minimum screens. The fewer things that have
to be done, the more powerful the user feels. Powerful users are happy
and effective users.
too many features
never add anything to Xpance until it fits within the confines of the
interface. If the interface will not support a compelling addition to
the product, we redesign the interface. A new feature must add significant
value to our users or it doesn't go in, no matter how "cool" it might
must work as fast as the user can think. There must be no disruption of
the user's flow of thinking or working.
are certain rules that apply to business data. Sorry, you can't enter
that information there at this time. In designing
Xpance we took a four-staged approach to this.
possible, prompt or default the correct information into the data
appropriate, gray out the area or button.
users of the appropriate rule if they've broken one.
in doubt about a rule, offer the user the option to back out after
a friendly warning.
is in the eye...
very small thing in terms of entering the information, but we work hard
to make the interface as pleasing to the eye as we can. There is nothing
about grace and simplicity that stops something from being beautiful to
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