Thinking Out of the Box

“Can’t we all just get along?” – On the Cooperation Between Usability Engineers and Software Developers

Markus Weber

It is still a common complaint uttered by usability professionals that organizations in general and software developers in particular “just don’t get” usability engineering. They are frustrated because they have all good intentions to provide support for creating user-friendly systems but the reactions they get are reserved at best and developers simply don’t buy into the whole usability engineering process.

So, whose fault is it? Who is it that is just not getting it?

As often in life, it takes two and an occasion to create a problem. Let’s have a closer look.
read more…

“Make it Like the iPhone” or: Be Careful What You Wish For

Markus Weber
Markus Weber
November 17th, 2008

These days, clients often mention the iPhone when describing their thoughts and goals concerning usability and user interface design, e.g. during project kickoffs.

On the one hand it’s nice to see user interface design and usability getting a good rap through the iPhone and more people realizing that the user interface is more than just the topping on the cake, but still, whenever those “Make it like the iPhone” statements are uttered, there are some things to discuss to set expectations appropriately.

First, it should be clarified that such a statement can be interpreted in two different ways. For one, it can mean “Make the user interface as easy to use and aesthetical as the iPhone’s”, which usually is the intended meaning. But it can also be interpreted as “Conduct the user interface design project in a way similar to the iPhone creation”, which is usually not the intended meaning, even though those two aspects are intimately intertwined.

Let’s have a look at both aspects.

read more…

Resolution Independent Icon Design – Part 1: Introduction to Resolution Independence

Thomas Immich
Thomas Immich
August 29th, 2008

About two years ago there have been some lively discussions on resolution independent user interfaces in the context of icon design. An interesting start page for past discussions is Sven Porst’s blog article. At that time, resolution-independent UI-related products such as Mac OS X Leopard, Windows Vista or Silverlight were either yet to come or have been used solely by a small bunch of insiders. Now, almost two years later, these are established brands – reason enough to shed some light on this topic again and to see if something has changed during this time, and if so what.

read more…

Involvement of End Users in the Development Process

Markus Weber
Markus Weber
July 4th, 2008

With all the “advanced topics” on usability engineering floating around in the blogosphere it may sometimes be hard to find information on the fundamentals, so we are providing this primer on the involvement of end users in the development process. This is basic information, but for some readers it may also be information they always wanted to know but were afraid to ask for. After all, you have to start somewhere.

read more…

Use Cases and Early Screen Scribbles in User Interface Design

Markus Weber

An essential part of designing user interfaces consists of communicating about system behavior and functionality that has ultimately to be provided in the user interface in a user-friendly manner.

To transfer knowledge regarding system behavior / system functionality, a variety of methods can be used. Often, use case descriptions and screen scribbles are employed to provide the required information. When a user interface designer has a kickoff meeting for a project, for example, a stakeholder can scribble a screen that would provide essential system functionality so that the user interface designer gets a quick impression of certain system aspects. During requirements engineering, use case descriptions might have been created that are handed to the user interface designer to get a feeling for workflows that are carried out and the desired user-system interaction.

Both ways of documentation have their advantages and drawbacks. read more…

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