UIEtips Article: Seven Critical Decisions for Designing Effective Applications, Part I

Jared Spool

October 22nd, 2007

The landscape for building applications is always changing. In the ’80s, we built them out of “dumb terminals” and DOS screens. In the ’90s, we used GUIs. In this millennium, we get browser-based technologies, like Flash, Flex, Javascript, and Ajax (and now new technologies on the horizon, such as Adobe’s AIR and Microsoft’s Silverlight).

Whenever a new technology appears on the scene, it’s natural for designers to experiment, often producing results that turn out to be less than desirable (“Skip Intro”, anyone?). However, blaming the technologies for these frustrating designs is like blaming your DVD player for Jim Carrey movies.

Today, in our UIEtips email newsletter, we published the first part of a two-part series on designing effective web applications. I explore seven critical considerations designers need for designing effective applications. Based on research we’ve conducted on dozens of applications, we’ve assembled an essential set of questions teams need to ask about their design to ensure they are providing the best value to their users.

Read the first part of my article here.

Once you’ve read the article, we want to hear your thoughts about it. What experience have you had with building effective applications? Leave your thoughts below.

This topic is part of what Josh Porter and I’ll be talking about at the upcoming UI12 conference. We still have a little room left for the November event, so you’ll want to register right away to hear all the great experts we’ve assembled. More info at http://www.uiconf.com

4 Responses to “UIEtips Article: Seven Critical Decisions for Designing Effective Applications, Part I

  1. University Update - AJAX - UIEtips Article: Seven Critical Decisions for Designing Effective Applications, Part I Says:

    [...] UIEtips Article: Seven Critical Decisions for Designing Effective Applications, Part I » This Summary is from an article posted at UIE Brain Sparks on Monday, October 22, 2007 The [...]

  2. Juan Lanus Says:

    In item 3 it says, more or less: every now and then we hear someone proclaim, “Things online should work just like their real-world counterparts.”

    IMO it’s not so, things online must work better than their traditional counterparts.
    Also, things online are real-world too, not “virtual” but real, but this is another issue.

    Online has to be better for the user to switch, else why not staying with the thing as it always was?

    Online has advantages and drawbacks, the balance must be perceived as positive by the user. For example a book. Why should I switch to an online book instead of the paper counterpart?

    Online books (like PDFs) cost less and can be used immediately. These are advantages.
    Drawbacks are that one can not tote ans read them as easily as a paper book can except with an expensive instrument, the notebook.
    A real book can be bookmarked and reopened in the exact page in a second, while a PDF might require one to explore a directory, open the exact file, and find that page. The Windows “Documents” menu, and Acrobat’s automatic bookmarking address this issues albeit not completely.

    For one that can’t see the PDF can be read aloud by the PC while the paper book not. PDFs let the reader change the text size at will, obviously paper books can not at all.

    Many other differences can be accounted for. After brainstorming the list a more difficult task rears, which is ranking them from the point of view of the user, a normal user like that chubby aut of yours. Female users are better because they tend to be less dazzled by technological features.
    After ranking the pros and cons than you design to overcome the most blocking cons, or agree that the online solution is only marginally usable.

    And that’s it! The online version of whatever does not have to be worse then tha traditional, but better. If it’s not so then please refrain to implement it. Gone are the years when the web was “surfed” for pleasure and being online was exciting.

    Yes Jared you are darn right in that the online design has to leverage the user’s prior experiences. Those experiences are made out of positive bits, and limitations. We who design must address those limitations while doing our best for preserving the positive features of the traditional implementations.

  3. Geoff A Says:

    I often find myself having to temper people’s excitement with new technologies they may happen to see implemented elsewhere. As stated in the article, I do find that people are initially wowed by visually rich interactive effects. Unfortunately, when placed within the context of a different application, it’s rare these suggestions would actually add value to it’s users.

    I’m all for implementing technologies that enhance content presentation and user experience as long as they don’t distract, or heaven forbid prevent, someone from using an application.

  4. Benjamin Ho Says:

    Design for satisfactory detail – What I’ve found through laying out the groundwork of the designing is to first understand the mental model and the context of the user. Without this, there is no design. We cannot design in a vacuum. In the WhiteTie example, it sounds like the designer had very little understanding in the users’ motivation in using such a service.

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