For at least three decades the design principles of user interface has a presence in computer science literature. During the last decade computer systems became increasingly more interactive and code for interface increased accordingly. Interactive user interface developments and graphic user interfaces (GUI) in particular do provide simpler ways for humans to communicate with PCs. Although GUI requires complex programming, several software tools emerged that assist with the implementation of GUI, such as NeXT Interface Builder; WindowsMAKER; TelePICTIVE; and TelePICTIRE (Sidhu, 2010: 36).
Sidhu (2010: 36-38) suggests the following design guidelines for better user interface:
- Simple, clear and standardised screen layout with liberal use of blank space. Functional aspects such as title, help text and buttons should be consistent throughout; with distinctive design that emphasise critical information. Textual information should be easily legible, by using appropriate fonts, typestyles and typesets. The resolution of graphics should eb good quality.
- Make use of easily navigatable multi-windows and menus to enable users to bring relevant windows to the front.
- Make use of menus that indicate the selected option and visited items. Provide keyboard shortcuts (accelerators) and indicators of drastic action if executed, e.g. exiting or quiting without having saved. Use hierarchical (sub) menus with clear indicators.
- Provide selection lists (pop-ups) when hovering with mouse.
- Make use of realistics icons to give visual clues to users.
- Make use of feedback indicators, e.g. progress or time/percentage remaining; and/or graphic indicators, such as bars.
- Provide online help that is context sensitive.
- Error messages should be constructive and offer remedy suggestions.
- Use colour to enhance usefulness, e.g. similar functional background colours; contrast to focus users; and bright colours for caution.
- Mouse input (and other input devices) should be consistent with contemporary software.
Sidhu, M.S. 2010. Technology-assisted problem solving for engineering education: interactive multimedia applications. Hershey: Engineering Science Reference.