Thinking Out of the Box

User Interface Guidelines for Mobile Devices: Blessing or Curse?

Andreas Groß

Corporate design guidelines aim at ensuring a coherent and consistent corporate identity. User interface guidelines (or UI guidelines) work in a similar fashion. They provide a set of rules for designing a software’s user interface. This applies to visual design as well as to interaction design. Ideally, adhering to these rules guarantees a basic quality of applications that run on the same operating system and avoids an “application zoo”-scenario.
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Mouse vs. Touch – or Peacefully Together?

André Ihme
André Ihme
September 30th, 2010

Interacting via touch is on everyone’s lips. Nevertheless, many companies shy away from reorganizing their applications respectively, because touch screen interactions require different concepts and can accompany huge restructuring efforts and high costs. Also, such restructuring is not riskless, since touch-interaction is not the most suitable paradigm for all application scenarios. The following article presents the combo box as an example to illustrate how mouse- and touch-interaction concepts can be integrated to get the best of both worlds. The article aims at inspiring especially those of you, who appreciate mouse- and touch-operation alike.
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Micro-Interactions vs. Macro-Interactions

Markus Weber

In order to successfully conduct user-centered-design projects, it is important for the team to have a shared vocabulary and understanding of key concepts. Grave misunderstandings can occur, when the parties involved use identical terminology, but the concepts that they refer to diverge. This starts with terms like “usability” or “user experience”, for which – in the worst case – you can find as many different explanations as there are members on the project team. Confusion can also arise regarding the concept of “interaction design”.
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The Comeback Of The Pie Menu

Justine Kiermasch
Justine Kiermasch
June 16th, 2010

In recent years, so called “natural user interfaces” (NUI) have grown in popularity. More and more often, interaction via touch and gestures is employed instead of using mouse and keyboard. The iPhone was greeted with great enthusiasm and played a major part in spreading touch screen system in the consumer market while also introduced gesture-based interaction in a playful way. There should be hardly any touch screen user who is not familiar with the pinch gesture that is used to resize or zoom images on the iPhone.
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Resurrecting UI Prototypes (Without Creating Zombies) – Part 2: Prototyping with Expression Blend

Thomas Immich

Keeping the background information of the previous article in mind, assume you want to make use of Blend to design a NUI based on Silverlight or WPF that lets you easily manipulate items on the screen. In the beginning, you won’t even touch the tool at all – you “invent” whatever gesture you think is intuitive to perform this operation. Most likely you do this in your head or on the whiteboard. You discuss and refine the design with your team mates or with potential users. At this stage everything is still low-fidelity and throwing away things isn’t costly yet. As soon as you have a good-enough feeling about the rough design, you start prototyping with higher fidelity. This is to be really sure your idea works. To provoke the intended interaction experience, caring about every single detail is exceptionally important in later prototyping stages.

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Resurrecting User Interface Prototypes (Without Creating Zombies) – Part 1: Prototyping Natural User Interfaces

Thomas Immich

Every user interface designer is familiar with the procedure to some extent: To find out what a user interface needs to look and behave like it’s certainly a good idea to create a prototype and evaluate it with potential users. Users will tell you what’s still nagging them and therefore should be improved before coding starts. So, in the beginning of any UI design process everything is about change – you create a prototype and already expect it to require modifications in order to work alright. As you – and most likely your client, too – want changes to be as cost-efficient as possible, you are better off taking a change-friendly prototyping method or tool. This is especially true in early stages of the project your ideas of potential solutions are rather vague. In this early phase, most often you don’t even know the exact problem for which you are in hunt of a solution. You are still analyzing more than you are designing.

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Writing and Styling Android™ Applications – Coming from Swing

Patrick Decker
Patrick Decker
April 28th, 2010

A Java™ developer who is used to developing GUIs with Swing and who is now trying to get into Android might be surprised: Java is not the same on Android.

The fact that Java is different on Android has been discussed in some blogs on the net already, so I just sum it up to this: Android applications can be written by any developer who knows the Java programming language. But the number of available runtime classes on Android is different: there are fewer classes in Android regarding package java.* compared to Sun Java Standard or Micro Edition. The most surprising fact for a Java GUI developer might be that there is no Swing on Android.

This article demonstrates some aspects of how a simple Java Swing application with a nice Look and Feel was transferred to Android. The main focus is set on how to write the application with the Android SDK and the styling and theming abilities of Android.
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Frosted Glass on the Java™ Desktop

Simon Albers

More and more operating systems use a border resembling frosted glass for their windows, like, e.g., the Aero Glass® decoration known from Windows Vista® and Windows 7®. Providing this ‘special effect’ on the Java™ platform is still not easy to realize. Most Look and Feels use opaque borders, which do not visually match the surrounding designs of these operating systems.
This article describes a pragmatic approach to solve to this problem.

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Animations in User Interface Design: Essential Nutrient Instead of Eye Candy

Markus Weber
Markus Weber
January 31st, 2010

A prototypical sequence in user interface design proceeds from wireframes to interaction design and finally to visual design. The user interface is successively refined, starting with abstract statics, then specifying the basic dynamic aspects until finally visual specifics are added. This is compatible with the view that visual aspects of a user interface are more or less the icing on the cake – details that should only be taken care of after the foundations for a user-friendly have been laid. But this view may be flawed.
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Regarding Color Vision Deficiency in the Icon Design Process

David Patrizi
David Patrizi
December 7th, 2009

Red is not always red, green is not always green. For quite a large amount of people it is not easy to distinguish between red and green hues. About 6% of all males have the same difficulties to tell orange from olive-green as unaffected people have to distinguish between burgundy and ruby-red – oftentimes, it is impossible. This most common kind of color vision deficiency is called Deuteranomaly, also known as “green weakness”. The following article will deal with the question of how this wide-spread impairment impacts the production process of high quality icons.

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