UI Design

I’ve noted my vast and expansive experience in software development in previous posts.  (Hint… a two fingered man could count the number of years on one hand)  Even in that short time I have noticed a significant shift towards rich user interfaces.  Rich internet applications (RIA) get the most press and understandably given the amount of use we have for the internet and how much farther behind in UI the browser is than the client applications.  RIA’s have a lot of ground to make up.  However, client applications have a lot to gain too.  Winforms development has allowed for rapid application development by simplifying forms creation.  This has not always been to it’s advantage though.  The quick development has too often led to not enough focus on usability.  Drop a few textboxes here, a button there and viola!  This approach has resulted in bland, unintuitive applications that leave users frustrated when they cannot find the functions they need to perform and bored when application after application appear identical.  In the last year alone I’ve witnessed WPF and Silverlight make significant headway.  Microsoft products (VS 2010 for example) are beginning to leverage WPF and more and more web developers are implementing websites in Silverlight.

There are a great many design centered blogs, Robby Ingebretson’s (he’s giving at least one presentation at Mix 09) nerdplusart and Scott Hansens ISO50 are two (I’ll try post links to these blogs and the right side of this page but a google search will get you there too).  Another great one is Incremental Blogger which focuses on tablet/touch PC’s.  Objectified is a blog by a director Gary Huswit (not sure on that spelling) which characterizes industrial design in our time.  From the IPod/IPhone to cd players to the chairs we sit in to potato peelers, each device was designed by someone for a purpose and says a lot about them by the way it behaves and how people react to it.

When I finally saw the keynotes at MIX09 yesterday and this morning I said enough is enough, blog it.  Bill Buxton, author of Sketching User Interfaces (or something close to that) kicked off Mix.  The second keynote feature the gal who redesigned the prescription medication bottles.  The first two keynotes featured design!  Combine this with the release of Silverlight 3 and the many breakout sessions on design and one can see a pattern developing.

My point with this post is that design is forefront of a major revolution.  Design is out there and it not only gaining traction, it’s straight up popular (all the cool kids are doin it).  It will no longer be acceptable to simple throw a user interface together and expect users to be ok with it.  They will complain or worse, they will refuse to buy the product.  There are a myriad of benefits to a solid, intuitive user interface of which I will cover in a later post.  In a short time, UI will be as important to a software product as it’s functionality.

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