Interaction design

Introductory articles

  • A definition of interaction design
    "Interaction design is the art of facilitating or instigating interactions between humans (or their agents), mediated by products. By interactions, I mostly mean communication, either one-on-one (a telephone call), one-to-many (blogs), or many-to-many (the stock market). The products an interaction designer creates can be digital or analog, physical or incorporeal or some combination thereof."
    (Dan Saffey - O Danny Boy)

Discussion articles

  • Accessibility of AJAX applications
    "AJAX will not work in all web browsers. As its name suggests, AJAX requires JavaScript. This alone means that AJAX applications will not work in web browsers and devices that do not support JavaScript. For this reason it is not accessible to many typical Web users. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines also require that web applications function when JavaScript is disabled or not supported. AJAX also requires that XMLHttpRequest be supported, which many browsers do not."
    (Jared Smith - WebAIM)

  • A farewell to pop-ups
    "Do you remember the olden days on the web when we'd watch participants struggle because they didn't know about scrolling? And they'd only click on a link if it were blue and underlined? At that time, the rule for pop-ups was simple: 'Pop-ups: just say NO'. Gradually I started to notice that pop-ups weren't confusing my participants. Providing the pop-up conformed to certain rules, it was just fine. After some e-mail discussion with Carl Zetie of Forrester Research, we formulated the 'Jarrett-Zetie Rules of Pop-ups'. If a pop-up satisfied all of the five rules, then it was likely to be usable. Recently, I have been finding more and more evidence that too many pop-ups break the rules. I'm going back to my old stance. The rules are broken too often for them to be useful. From now on, it's going to be 'Pop-ups: just say NO'. Unless the designer can convince me that they will obey all five rules meticulously."
    (Caroline Jarrett - Usability News)

  • Affordance, conventions and design
    "I was quietly lurking in the background of a CHI-Web discussion, when I lost all reason: I just couldn't take it anymore. 'I put an affordance there', a participant would say, 'I wonder if the object affords clicking'. Affordances this, affordances that. And no data, just opinion. Yikes! What had I unleashed upon the world? 'No!' I screamed, and out came this note. I don't know if it changed anyone's minds, but it brought the CHI-Web discussion to a halt (not what good list managers want to happen). But then, Steven Pemberton asked me to submit it here. Hope it doesn't stop the discussion again. Mind you, this is not the exact piece I dashed off to CHI-Web: it has been polished and refined: the requirements of print are more demanding than those of email discussions."
    (Donald Norman)

  • Affordances and design
    "The word 'affordance' was originally invented by the perceptual psychologist J. J. Gibson to refer to the actionable properties between the world and an actor. To Gibson, affordances are a relationship. They are a part of nature: they do not have to be visible, known, or desirable. Some affordances are yet to be discovered. Some are dangerous. I suspect that none of us know all the affordances of even everyday objects. I introduced the term affordance to design in my book, 'The Psychology of Everyday Things'. The concept has caught on, but not always with true understanding. Part of the blame lies with me: I should have used the term "perceived affordance," for in design we care much more about what the user perceives than what is actually true."
    (Donald Norman)

  • AJAX and interface design
    "AJAX allows every element within a Web interface to be individually and quickly updated without affecting the rest of the interface. This, of course, is not what most Web users are accustomed to. Initiating an action within most Web sites triggers the inevitable blank screen and page loading process. Though not very responsive, the full-page update makes it very clear to users that their action has resulted in a reaction and that a response will be available as soon as the page is refreshed. Because AJAX-based updates are very fast and incremental (often affecting only a small portion of the UI), users may not notice them -especially when they are used to seeing full-page rewrites."
    (Luke Wroblewski)

  • Ajax: a new approach to web applications
    "Google Suggest and Google Maps are two examples of a new approach to web applications that we at Adaptive Path have been calling Ajax. The name is shorthand for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML, and it represents a fundamental shift in what's possible on the Web."
    (Jesse James Garrett - Adaptive Path)

  • Ajax mistakes
    "Ajax is an awesome technology that is driving a new generation of web apps, from maps.google.com to colr.org to backpackit.com. But Ajax is also a dangerous technology for web developers, its power introduces a huge amount of UI problems as well as server side state problems and server load problems."
    (Alex Bosworth)

  • Beyond the page
    "Some thoughts about the page, its place in IA literature and tools, and the need to move past the page metaphor to better methods of architecting online information."
    (Gene Smith)

  • Beware of opening links in a new window
    "Unfortunately, opening links in a new window is still quite a common occurrence on the web. Many sites do so now, and I'm sure many will continue to do so. Before you follow their lead, take a few moments to think long and hard about whether it's the right thing to do."
    (Neil Turner - Sitepoint)

  • Can programmers do interaction design?
    "Most programmers tend to think they’re the best-qualified people to design the form and behavior of a product. In the absence of trained interaction designers, they may be right, but is a development process without an interaction designer really viable? Should executives count on getting interaction design for free from their programmers?"
    (Kim Goodwin - Cooper Journal)

  • Checkboxes vs radio buttons
    " Even prominent websites make elementary errors in the use of basic user interface controls. The main guidelines are clear, but there are ten other things you should consider when using checkboxes and radio buttons."
    (Jakob Nielsen - Alertbox)

  • Choosing to give choices
    "In my mind, when you’re faced with a dilemma of how something should be done, 'letting the user choose' is often a cop-out. Giving people the option to do everything is like designing by focus group; you assume people actually know what they want."
    (Kevin Cheng - OK/Cancel)

  • Communicating with icons
    "The old adage, 'a picture's worth a thousand words', is a nice benefit when visually representing emotional concepts or situations that encourage personal interpretation. However, personal interpretation is a huge problem when it comes to using icons in software and web design."
    (Bill Pawlak - Inovdesigns)

  • Configuration hell: the case for the plug and play user experience
    "Users are not usually successful at configuring software, websites or devices and the configuration experience can be a major source of frustration. Instead we need to move toward a world where everything is auto-configured and user experiences are 'plug and play'."
    (Frank Spillers - Demystifying Usability)

  • Crafting a wizard
    "Designing an effective wizard is no magician's trick. Even though wizards are intended to make complex tasks appear easy, shielding users from complex details is real work to designers and developers. This article will share 15 dos and don'ts gleaned from the author's experience to help you create a wizard that works."
    (Jodi Bollaert - IBM)

  • Creating online application power users using graduated usability
    "Graduated Usability isn't a new concept--most desktop applications use it. Web applications are limited in their ability to be designed with Graduated Usability. As more people leverage Web-based applications as part of their everyday life, for both work and non-work related tasks, more time will be spent using these applications than those on the desktop. However, currently, Web applications offer few alternatives to users: accomplish tasks less efficiently over time, wasting time and money, or move on to better designed applications that can meet their needs."
    (Robert Buffone - developer.com)

  • Dashboards
    "Dashboards allow users to view and access information from a single location, without having to navigate to separate 'silos' to find the information they need."
    (Daniel Szuc, Gerry Gaffney - Apogee)

  • Designing for the multiple personalities of users
    "Users can exhibit multiple personalities when using applications, and user interfaces need to be designed with this in mind. The team at UIE use of the notion of 'core' and 'ring' users to assist in this process. Core applications extend the existing core skills of the user. Ring applications deliver functionality that is beyond the user's core competencies."
    (Jared M Spool - User Interface Engineering)

  • Designing intersection flows
    "When forms give users the option to continue in two or more alternative directions, such as registering as a new customer or signing in as a returning one, unfortunate users will take the wrong turn if it isn't unmistakably obvious which way they should go. In this article, we'll take a look at a few intersection flows that have caused users problems."
    (Henrik Olsen)

  • Devising a new paradigm for usable, maintainable web applications
    "Why does usability tend to lag behind as web applications become increasingly complex? Much of this lag can be attributed to the fact that the languages we use to create web pages are not optimised for usability engineering. It is often the goal of the developer to simply get an application to function--but not necessarily function well--because the tools at the developer’s disposal do not promote such a thought process. If we are to make usability engineering a more implemented discipline, we need a language that more tightly couples how users interact with software and how developers develop code."
    (Ka Wai Cheung - Digital Web Magazine)

  • Designing user experiences for applications versus information resources on the web
    "Though the process of designing and creating application and information space user experiences for the Web is virtually the same—even if the deliverable design documents may differ—their user experiences are fundamentally and profoundly different. For designers, business analysts, marketing consultants, and others who are sincerely interested in delivering the best user experiences online, understanding these distinctions can reduce the cost of design and improve the likelihood of user acceptance."
    (Leo Frishberg - UXmatters)

  • Don't force new windows on users
    "There are four solid arguments against forcing new windows on the user. It’s the user’s browser, opening a new window destroys the browser history, the new window is seldom as the user wants it, and software is making opening new windows impossible."
    (Jasper Tverskov - SmackTheMouse.com

  • Dynamic accessible web content roadmap
    "The Dynamic Accessible Web Content Roadmap addresses the accessibility of dynamic web content for people with disabilities. The roadmap outlines the technologies to map controls and events to accessibility APIs, including custom controls. The roadmap also outlines new navigation techniques to mark common web structues as menus, primary content, secondard content, banner information and other types of web structures. These new technoloiges can be used to improve the accessibility and usability of web resources by people with disabilities, without extensive modification to existing libraries of web resources."
    (Rich Schwerdtfeger - W3C)

  • Eat me, drink me, push me: in which the subtle arts of the interface are examined
    "You've gone through organising content and designing interaction. Now you come to the last piece of the architecture pie: interface. How do you enable people to use all that brilliant structure?"
    (Christina Wodtke - Digital Web Magazine)

  • Evaluating the usability of search forms using eyetracking: a practical approach
    "In this article, I’ll present findings from eyetracking tests we did to evaluate the best solutions for label placement in Web forms."
    (Matteo Penzo - UXmatters)

  • Fitts' law: the missing mouse factor (PDF)
    The mouse is a superior input device, and will be for many years to come. But as computer screens grow larger and larger, targets become increasingly harder to hit. Many interaction designers tend to take ‘increasing the target size’ as the solution of the problem—all according to Fitts’ law. But Fitts’ law only accounts for target size and distance—not mouse sensitivity. Increasing the target size as a means of making targets easier to hit defeats the sole purpose of larger screens.

  • Five lenses: towards a toolkit for interaction design
    "In this essay I begin with a definition, and illustrate my approach to partitioning the terrain of interaction design using five conceptual 'lenses'. In so doing, I cover most of what I see as the theoretical roots of interaction design. I then turn to the role of theory in interaction design, and suggest that a good way to begin is to assemble a toolkit of concepts for interaction design that consists of appropriately sized theoretical constructs."
    (Thomas Erickson)

  • Flash and web-based applications
    In usability tests of 46 Flash applications, we identified several basic issues related to web-based functionality's ephemeral nature. Some findings restate old truths about GUIs; others reflect the Net's new status as nexus of the user experience.

  • Forms vs. applications
    "Once an online form goes beyond two screenfuls, it's often a sign that the underlying functionality is better supported by an application, which offers a more interactive user experience."
    (Jakob Nielsen)

  • Guidebook: graphical user interface gallery
    An online museum of graphical interfaces, especially those old, obscure and in desperate need of preservation. Whether you want just to look back and refresh some nice memories from years ago, or are interested in seeing how the GUIs evolved throughout the decades (and it is sometimes fascinating to witness that), I hope you’ll enjoy your stay.

  • iHotelier: demonstrating the potential of Flash for web app design
    HTML is a very clumsy language when you're trying to build something with a sophisticated interaction stream.

  • How I learned to stop worrying and relinquish control
    "Many designers find it remarkably difficult to relinquish control... designers will go to great lengths to control the user’s experience--popping up windows or resizing them, placing everything within Flash, cueing music. They get so caught up in controlling the superficial form of the product that they neglect to appreciate the context of the experience. Relinquishing control is a scary prospect because it diminishes certainty. With control comes predictable outcomes that you can bank on. But in this increasingly complex, messy, and option-filled world, we must acknowledge that our customers hold the reins. Attempts to control their experience will lead to abandonment for the less onerous alternative. What we can do is provide the best tools and content that they can fit into their lives, and their ways."
    (Peter Merholz)

  • Interactiondesign.org
    "This website features the beginnings of a free, open-content, peer-reviewed encyclopedia covering terms from the disciplines of Interaction Design, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Design, Human Factors, Usability, Information Architecture, and related fields. By using the Creative Commons Copyright Licence, the Encyclopedia is in effect the property of the Interaction Design community, not of this specific website."
    (Mads Soegaard)

  • Interaction design for automobile interiors
    The automobile industry is copying all the worst features of the computer industry, ignoring all the advances in user-interface design, and all the lessons about safety. Unlike home computers where bad design is simply a nuisance, with automobiles, bad design can be a major safety issue.

  • Interaction design is still an art form: ergonomics is real engineering
    "The practice of HCI is mainly still an art form. The practice of Ergonomics is a rigorous engineering field. OK, so I oversimplified in order to get your attention, but listen up: there is a lot of truth in that simplification."
    (Don Norman)

  • Interaction design meets agility
    Notes from Jeff Paton's tutorial on practicing collaborative usage-centered design on agile software development projects.

  • Interaction design for automobile interiors
    "The automobile industry is copying all the worst features of the computer industry, ignoring all the advances in user-interface design, and all the lessons about safety. Unlike home computers where bad design is simply a nuisance, with automobiles, bad design can be a major safety issue."
    (Donald Norman)

  • Introducing interaction design
    Well-designed interactive products allow people and technology to carry on a complex and elegant dance relying on multiple, simultaneous forms of communication. A new 12-part series will discuss the activity of interaction design as it relates to the web, and the relative advantages and disadvantages of the web as an interactive medium.

  • Latency must die: reducing latency by preloading data
    The real payoff with RIAs happens when the latency just disappears, and you feel like the data is native to your hard drive, even if in reality it's living on a server thousands of miles away. This requires preloading of both UI and data. Generally, very large data sets cannot be cost-effectively downloaded. So it only makes sense to preload data that has some potential for being requested by the user.

  • Launching new and pop-up windows
    Users have become more savvy, there is no need to trick them into staying on your site, in fact launching a new window with every off-site click can be considered downright annoying, actually forcing users to leave.

  • Live by the mockup, die by the mockup
    "The mockup can either sell your design or plummet you into a cyclical tunnel of churn. That’s why, like it or not, interface designers often live and die by the mockup. When interface designers focus too much on mockups rather than product solutions, the design profession may suffer. This type of dilemma already exists for visual designers, who are routinely called upon just to 'make things pretty'. As a result, every interface designer should focus on building a reputation as a problem solver and communicating that through the language of design and business. The presentation medium will change, the need to solve problems will not."
    (Luke Wroblewski - UXmatters)

  • Making rich web application architecture usable
    Software designers have become notorious for concentrating on implementation patterns and neglecting the user. It is easy to get lost in grand concepts at an abstract level and get excited over stuff that makes your work as a developer easier; thus, the needs and desires of the "real" users may sometimes take a back seat. Identifying the usability constraints and designing within them keeps the focus on the user.

  • Modelling user workflows for rich internet applications
    "As Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) become more advanced, the tasks, problems, and processes they address become increasingly complex, making it more important than ever to accurately model user workflows."
    (David Hogue)

  • Not opening new windows
    The one thing every web user understands is the "Back" button. It's an integral part of browsing the web. Follow a link, go back. Explore a search engine result, go back. In all dominant browsers, using the <a target="_blank"> tag to force a link to open in a new window breaks the Back button. The new window does not retain the browser history of the previous window, so the "Back" button is disabled. This is incredibly confusing, even for me, and I've been using the web for 10 years. In 2002, it's amazing that people still do this. Don't do this. Don't force links to open in new windows.

  • On spawned windows
    Shawn Lawton Henry discusses techniques for reducing usability and accessibility problems when spawning new windows.

  • Opening links in a new window
    Visitors of your site expect to receive content. They don't expect you to change their home page, add sites to their favourites list, or open links in a new window, no matter how honourable your intentions.

  • Opening new windows: a user-centred approach
    Opening new browser windows can confuse or annoy users, so designers should take care when considering this approach. New windows should only be opened when doing so supports users' tasks. And users should always be given a clear warning about what will happen when they click on a link that triggers a pop-up or spawns a new window.
    (Dey Alexander)

  • Open new windows for PDF and other non-web documents
    "When using PC-native file formats such as PDF or spreadsheets, users feel like they're interacting with a PC application. Because users are no longer browsing a website, they shouldn't be given a browser UI."
    (Jakob Nielsen)

  • Personal interface definitions
    Think of them as application independent, individually defined, continually evolving visual and interaction design style sheets that maintain a common interface vocabulary for users. An individual user’s Personal Interface Definition (PID) is their custom interface design layer (interactive and visual skin) that is applied to every software application they use.

  • Presentation slideshows: HITS 2003
    HITS (Humans, Interaction, Technology, Strategy) is a conference on interaction design and business strategy. Presentation slideshows (in pdf format) from the 2003 conference can be downloaded from this page.

  • Progress indication: concepts, design and implementation
    This article covers aspects of progress indication related to: understanding the design problem, design considerations and guidelines, and implementation issues and tips. Guidance is provided based on usability testing. This information will enable UI designers and developers to design more effectively and evaluate progress indication design more critically.

  • Progressive disclosure: the best interaction design technique?
    Progressive disclosure is an interaction design technique that sequences information and actions across several screens in order to avoid overwhelming the user. It allows users to orient to a screen, figure out what they need to do, and do it in steps that reveal more complex information as they go along.

  • RIAs: the technology is exciting, but they really do help users
    "Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), how they work, and how to choose the appropriate RIA technology. Unfortunately, so far, we’ve had few discussions about the value of RIAs to users and how RIA technologies let us create better, more usable Web applications. This article addresses two questions: What is wrong with traditional, pre-RIA Web applications? How do RIAs remedy their problems?"
    (David Heller - UXmatters)

  • Rich internet applications for revolutionary interface design (PDF)
    The use of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) for complex, transactional web applications is a significant leap forward for user interface design and development. It fundamentally changes the foundation of the presentation tier for today’s web applications. RIAs provide an environment where the 'click-and-wait' cycle of page reloads and form-driven interfaces are no longer central to web application navigation. With RIAs, server requests and transactions can be handled in the background, seemingly more transparent to the user. Similar to the way desktop applications behave, rich internet applications don’t explicitly request user interaction for all server transactions. This gives the user the impression that an RIA actually has the qualities of a stateful application. With server transaction tasks removed from the user interface or minimised, rich internet applications result in drastic reductions in server side transaction and processing needs, providing revolutionary improvements in user experience.

  • RIP WYSIWYG
    "For the last twenty-five years, one user interface style has reigned supreme: the Macintosh-style graphical user interface. It's now reached its limits, however, and will be replaced by a style that partly reverses some of its most treasured interaction principles. A new paradigm, called results-oriented UI, might well be the way to empower users in the future."
    (Jakob Nielsen - Alertbox)

  • Rules for labelling buttons
    "Here, I reveal for the first time in a public forum Jarrett's First Rule of Buttons which is: 'Label the button with what it does.' and also Jarrett's Second Rule of Button Labels which is: 'If the user doesn't want to do it, don't have a button for it.'"
    (Caroline Jarrett - Usability News)

  • Scrolling and scrollbars
    "Despite posing well-known risks, websites continue to feature poorly designed scrollbars. Among the ongoing problems that result are frustrated users, accessibility challenges, and missed content."
    (Jakob Nielsen - Alertbox)

  • Situate follow-ups in context
    "Usability is often enhanced when people can find follow-up transactions on the page where they conducted their first transaction. Conversely, usability is reduced if the original page contains no hint of what people might need to do at a later stage."
    (Jakob Nielsen - Alertbox)

  • Storyboarding Rich Internet Applications with Visio
    "With the recent rise in popularity of web technologies such as Flash and AJAX, it has become possible to create richer user experiences on the web. Moving from designing primarily for PIAs (Paged Internet Applications) to RIAs (Rich Internet Applications) presents us with a specific challenge: how do we document these richer interactions?"
    (Bill Scott - Boxes and Arrows)

  • Task maps
    "As of late, when designing applications, we have started taking the approach of organizing not by "site maps", but instead by "task maps". With information-oriented sites, site maps are ok, because the main task is information-seeking, and site maps enable that. Naturally, if all users have to do is find information, then how that information is organized is extremely important. In the case of an application though, information-seeking is often only one of many tasks that users need to accomplish, and a site map is not enough."
    (Garrett Dimon)

  • The elements of interaction design
    "Other design disciplines use raw materials. Communication designers use basic visual elements such as the line. Industrial designers work with simple 3D shapes such as the cube, the sphere, and the cylinder. For interaction designers, who create products and services that can be digital (software) or analog (a karaoke machine) or both (a mobile phone), the design elements are more conceptual. And yet they offer a powerful set of components for interaction designers to bring to bear on their projects."
    (Dan Saffer - UX Matters)

  • The perfect pop-up
    If you believe the likes of Jakob Neilsen and his supporters, nothing is more evil than pop-up windows. And in many ways, this is correct. Why? Well, we'll list the reasons soon enough, but in a nutshell it's because they are nearly always poorly implemented or simply not needed. This tutorial will show that, with the right thought, pop-up windows can be used without upsetting anyone--particularly the person browsing your site.

  • The politics of pop-ups, pop-up blockers and the pop-up error message
    "Pop-ups are not the problem. It is the forcing of them on your users without telling them, which also violates the permission-based marketing model."
    (Frank Spillers)

  • Google and Microsoft understand the power of the default
    "In response to a new feature in Microsoft’s upcoming Internet Explorer 7 web browser, Google has issued a complaint with the Justice Department that the browser doesn’t give users enough choice because it defaults to using the MSN web search. By filing this complaint, Google is acknowledging the Power of the Default. The Power of the Default is the observation that most users never change the default settings in software."
    (Joshua Porter - User Interface Engineering)

  • The web, information architecture and interaction design
    " The impact of digital technology in all facets of our lives has meant a proliferation of terms for the work people do to define digital products and services. In this article, interaction designer Jonathan Korman unpacks some of these distinctions to help product teams assign the right people to the right jobs."
    (Jonathan Korman)

  • To Flash or not to Flash? Usability and user engagement of HTML vs Flash
    "This paper reports on a comparative evaluation of Flash and HTML versions of a single site, focusing on user information-seeking goals, behavior, and responses to each version of the site. We then compare the two versions based on holding power, time on task, user satisfaction, and qualitative interviews. Testing found notable differences between the two versions of the site, and between youth and adult tester groups. The results provide valuable insights into the relative strengths and weaknesses of Flash and HTML. "
    (David T Schaller et al)

  • Usability for Rich Internet Applications
    "Rich Internet applications (RIAs) can provide opportunities to design much better user experiences. They can be faster, more engaging and much more usable. However, this improvement is not without its downside—RIAs are much more difficult to design than the previous generation of page-based applications. The richer interaction requires a better understanding of users and of human-computer interaction (HCI). Although there is a lot of HCI material and research available, it can be difficult to determine how it applies to this new environment. In this article, I provide some practical tips for designing usable RIAs, based on fundamental principles of HCI."
    (Donna Maurer - Digital Web Magazine)

  • Usable forms
    Are you designing forms for your users or for your database? There is a growing interest in providing services to an international market. Whether you are a North American company wanting to sell overseas, or within Australia or Europe and wanting to service a massive US market, you absolutely have to consider the differences in information likely to be provided by your users.

  • Use of narrative in interaction design
    Can narrative play a role in creating meaningful experiences online--not just for users but for design teams as well? Beyond the conceptual, there are practical applications of narrative in web design that many of us already use in our practice. Even large, business-focused projects can be approached within a holistic narrative framework, benefiting both the usability and design process.

  • User interface design for web applications
    I learned quickly that the design choices one makes for a web-based application are often quite different from those of a content-based website. I needed to look at each design choice from a different angle--because I was now playing by different rules. As I made my way through the maze of design decisions, I took note of the things I did differently from my website projects. This article explores some of the lessons I learned along the way.

  • User interface design: is it a science, an art or a craft?
    So, what is UI design? Is it a science, an art, or a craft? My answer is: It's a craft that takes its wisdom from science, its inspiration from art and the design disciplines, its possibilities and limitations from software technology and corporate culture, and its directions, ideally, from the users.

  • User interface design - taking the good with the bad
    "Designing the UI is fundamentally an exercise in compromise—not compromise between designers and other project stakeholders (usability should never be sacrificed as a result of office politics)—but compromise between the drawbacks and benefits of design decisions. Every UI decision, from a pixel’s precise placement to the entire site’s information architecture, should be made judiciously. Careful consideration of the benefits each design decision affords and costs its users is essential. It’s the sometimes-subtle expense that many people often overlook, and every UI decision does have expense. Educated compromise across all UI decisions is essential to creating the best interface possible, and is, ironically, required if you are to avoid designing a compromised interface."
    (Mike Padilla - Digital Web Magazine)

  • Users decide first; move second
    Designers use interactive design elements, such as fly outs, rollovers, and dropdowns, to conserve space, make the screen less cluttered, and enhance the users' experience. We were surprised when users succeeded more often when they didn't encounter these design elements than when they did.

  • User mental models of persistence in Rich Internet Applications (RIAs)
    The user expectations here are almost certainly that an RIA will behave like a web application (since it is running inside their browser). However, history shows that developers will implement the persistence model most convenient to them. As I will show, implementing the web application persistence model in an RIA presents significant technical and design challenge.

  • Using Ajax for creating web applications
    "In the past few years, developers could choose between two approaches when building a web application. The first approach was to create a screen-based system with very rich interactions using a sophisticated, powerful technology such as Java or Flash. The alternative approach was to create a page-based system using easier-to-learn core web standards like XHTML and CSS whose more basic capabilities force less-rich interactions. A new technological approach, dubbed Ajax, might just be the right mix between the two."
    (Joshua Porter)

  • Using web widgets wisely, part 1
    This article is the first in a two-part series about web widgets--controls that can be incorporated in web forms, dialogs, and wizards to elicit information from users. Here in Part 1, Jodi Bollaert defines several basic HTML web widgets, shows graphic examples, and discusses common usability problems and solutions.

  • Using web widgets wisely, part 2
    It has been said that too much power can be dangerous. That saying is befitting when it comes to enhancing or creating web widgets with client-side scripts. Web widgets, as you might recall from Part 1, are controls used in web forms, dialogs, and wizards to elicit information from users. While scripts allow developers to create an infinite variety of web widgets and behaviors, straying too far from users' expectations can lead to usability problems. Jodi Bollaert describes some common usability problems associated with client-side scripts and web widgets, and suggest ways to avoid them.

  • Views and forms: principles of task flow for web applications, part 1
    One of the defining elements of web applications is their support for the editing and manipulation of stored data. Unlike the typical conversation that goes on between a user and a content-centric website however, this additional capability requires a more robust dialog between user and application.

  • Visio, the interaction designer's nail gun (2nd edition)
    "This is a second edition of the article on using Visio for rapid prototyping for the web. The new edition includes a new and improved version of the GUUUI Prototyping Tool for Visio 2003."
    (Henrik Olsen)

  • Web application solutions: a designer's guide
    "Web Application Solutions is a guide that helps designers, product managers, and business owners evaluate some of the most popular Web application presentation layer solutions available today. We compare each solution through consistent criteria (deployment and reach, user interactions, processing, interface components and customization, back-end integration, future proofing, staffing and cost, unique features) and provide an overview, set of examples, and references for each."
    (Frank Ramirez, Luke Wroblewski)

  • What is a web application?
    "What distinguishes a web application from a traditional, content-based website and what are some of the unique design challenges associated with web applications? A reasonable launching point is the more fundamental question, 'What is an application?'"
    (Bob Baxley - Boxes and Arrows)

  • When what they see is what you get – but satisficing isn't enough
    "This study (and others in the works) clearly demonstrates that presentation design not only can, but does influence respondents' choice behavior. The choice of response format in web surveys can influence the response distribution."
    (Kath Straub)

  • Where visual literacy and interface design meet
    "A large number of conventions are currently used by software developers and each one believes that his or her design is the right one. Many software developers like to believe that what they do is an "art" and therefore it is not surprising that conventions used at present are more the result of "art" than of science. Without denying a software developer his or her creativity, there is a great need for a formal method to ensure the communicative validity of such conventions as functional layout, icons and colour. UCD and user experience specialists have always aimed to achieve this by using familiar symbols and signs from the user's environment, but more attention to formal principles of visual communication should make the results more predictable, or at least take some of the guesswork out of user interface design and ensure better utilisation of resources."
    (Jacques Hugo)

  • Why not make interfaces better than 3D reality? (PDF)
    Enhanced 3D interfaces might offer simpler navigation, more compelling functionality, safer movements, and less occlusion, than 3D reality, especially for information exploration and visualization tasks.

  • Why pop-ups are pop-bad
    Not too long ago, seeing a pop-up ad appear meant that you were either on a page that distributed illegal software or looking at something that isn't suitable for the eyes of under 18-year-olds. Back then, pop-ups were seen as an annoying but inseparable part of the web's dark side. However, encountering them while visiting larger and more reputable web sites was something that only a small amount of people could even dream about.

  • Widgetopia
    A collection of web widgets and UI elements and a brief discussion of interaction and usability issues associated with each.

  • Writing it down forces you to think it through
    "Whether communicating the drivers behind a design direction, articulating your domain knowledge, or learning about new areas, writing things down always helps to focus your message and strengthen your understanding: two key components to successful interface design."
    (Luke Wroblewski)

  • XMLHttpRequest ("Ajax") usability guidelines
    "XMLHttpRequest is becoming more and more popular, and many people are currently exploring what we could do with it. Unfortunately this also causes people to reinvent old and forgotten usability problems."
    (Thomas Baekdal)

Research articles

  • Designing user interfaces with gesture and sound. Towards the performance and appeal of voice mail browsing
    "In the current paper, three dimensions of multimodal access to content are explored: tangible media, use of gestures and sound. To this extent, the current study considers the role of sound feedback in support of user-product communication and gestures towards accessing voice mail via a tangible interface. In the case of voice mail representations, information can be directly represented by the recorded media, whereas the use of abstract sound representations creates a higher level overview of content."
    (Marco C Rozendaal, David V Keyson)

  • The role of metaphor in interaction design (PDF)
    "The role of metaphor in interaction design has oft been maligned and usually misunderstood. However, properly used, metaphor can be a powerful tool for designers, in both the process of designing and within the products themselves. Metaphor can help redefine design problems and help solve them. It can be used as a research tool, to understand new subject areas, or as means to generate new ideas about familiar subjects. It can help sell a product, both to internal stakeholders and teammates as well as to consumers. Metaphors can provide cues to users how to understand products: to orient and personify. In short, interaction designers can use metaphor to change behavior."
    (Dan Saffer)

  • Using computer-based narratives to persuade
    In January of 2003 we began investigating how computer systems can use the power of narrative to change people’s beliefs and behaviors. Our approach was unusual: rather than using computers to change the nature of narrative, we investigated how computers can weave together sequences of interactivity and narrative (what we call 'WIN') to produce an impact more powerful than using either interactivity or narrative alone. We believe this WIN pattern has never before been investigated systematically.

Case studies

  • Google vs Yahoo interface design
    "As Google and Yahoo continue their volley of product offerings, I thought it would be useful to compare the interface design solutions each company employed to solve similar user needs. In other words: how does Yahoo's version of a product (Maps, Local Search, Image Search, etc.) compare to Google's? Though some product offerings are virtually indistinguishable (Web Search, Image Search), others differ significantly (Groups, Product Search)."
    (Luke Wroblewski)

Books, book reviews

  • Book review: Designing for Interaction
    "Dan Saffer’s Designing for Interaction: Creating Smart Applications and Clever Devices was an ambitious undertaking. In fewer than 300 pages, he has attempted to cover the history, current practice, and notions about the future of the rapidly evolving discipline of interaction design (IxD). Whether you are simply curious about interaction design, are entering the profession yourself, or are collaborating with an interaction designer, Designing for Interaction is a good place to start your journey down the road of interaction design."
    (Leo Frishberg - UXmatters)

Interviews

  • Deconstructing web applications
    "Hagan Rivers is a recognized pioneer in the area of Web Application Design. Hagan worked on some of the very first web based interfaces and she continues to push the envelope of web application design in her current role as a partner at Two Rivers Consulting. UIE's Christine Perfetti recently had the opportunity to talk with Hagan about some of the biggest challenges in the web application space."
    (Christine Perfetti)

  • Larry Tesler on 'the laws' of interaction design
    "Larry Tesler’s resume reads like the history of interaction design. He’s worked at Xerox PARC, Apple, Amazon, and is now at Yahoo! as Vice President of their User Experience and Design Group. While at Xerox PARC, he helped develop some of the language of interaction design including pop-up menus and cut-and-paste. His law of the Conservation of Complexity is known to programmers and designers alike."
    (Dan Saffer)

  • Luke Wroblewski on visual interaction design
    "Luke Wroblewski is an interface designer, strategist, and author of the book Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability as well as numerous articles on software interface design. He sits on the board of directors of the Interaction Design Association and is a frequent presenter on topics related to interface design."
    (Dan Saffer)