January 27th, 2011
Just around the corner from our UIE offices is the fantastic design consulting firm Two Rivers Consulting, operated by David and Hagan Rivers. In his Virtual Seminar, David discusses a number of considerations for creating or updating your application’s visual design. Much of David’s experience is with large and complex web applications that are trying to accomplish many things for many users for large chunks of their working hours.
Web applications live in a strange world―half application, half website. Making a command look like a command can be tricky. Do you make it a button? Should it be a link? In this podcast, David answers remaining questions from the session.
Here’s an excerpt from the podcast.
“…when you have a lot of things that seem equally important, it’s really tempting to make them all look the same because it’s logical for things to be consistent. You make all of your headers look the same; make all of your sections or portions of a portal or a dashboard look the same so that everything seems like a unified design.
And there is definitely some merit to making things look like they belong together, look like they’re a unified design, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to look identical. So I talk about using subtle differences between them so that there’s additional cues that help people find the things that they need.
Sometimes it’s positional. Sometimes it’s color. Sometimes it’s use of borders or lack thereof or providing similar amounts of space around things. So in the case where things are incredibly configurable―I wouldn’t be surprised if Merrill’s talking about a dashboard here―it seems like it might be an insurmountable problem. But it really isn’t.
Because users can configure it, that’s what makes it work. People can still put things where they want them to go. They can still size them the way they want to often. But if you wanted to provide some extra UI for them, you could allow them to pick from a few different visual styles for each configurable thing. And those styles could work together as a family so that some might have borders, some might not. But they work together as components in an overall design that they can cobble together so that things work together as a whole.
But, like I said, the positional placement of things is what really works for them when you’re making things configurable. So that really handles the issue of having things that are otherwise equally important but different enough so that people know what to do with them and how to use them…”
Tune into the podcast to hear David answer these questions.
- How can you handle attention when competing with banners?
- We have a design where there can be a number of things that are equally important, but it’s so configurable that we don’t know how to group them. Any advice?
- What would you recommend as a minimum font size for a web app?
- What would you recommend to make grids look and feel better or more user friendly?
- In web apps do you prefer fluid design or fixed?
In the podcast, David recommends the book Computers as Theatre by Brenda Laurel.
Share your experiences with web application design or any questions in our comments section.Tweet