Software User Interface Design - Software Engineering

What is Software User Interface Design?

The view of the application through which the user can interact and use the software is the User interface of the software. User interface enables the user to control and operate the software and hardware. For all forms of digital technology that appears in mobile phones, computers, music players and all the other sources, user interface appears and is used.

The information about the software is made available to the user by user interface. The platform for human-computer interaction is offered by UI.

There can be different forms of UI. On the basis of combination of the hardware and the software, UI can take any of the forms such as audio-video based, text-based, it can be graphical form.

The following features of the user interface enables to increase the popularity of the software.

  • Attractive
  • Simple to use
  • Responsive in short time
  • Clear to understand
  • Consistent on all interfacing screens

What are the different types of Software User Interface?

The software User Interface can be divided into -

  • Command Line Interface
  • Graphical User Interface

Command Line Interface (CLI)

Prior to the monitor displaying videos, Command Line Interface (CLI) was widely used a common toll of UI. The minimum interface that a user has been obtained by the software is CLI. Many of the programmers and technical users prefer CLI as their best option.

The user can communicate through using codes in a command prompt facilitated by the CLI. The syntax of all the commands are to be known by the user. The errors of the users were not handled perfectly by the earlier version of the CLI.

The instruction according to which the system has to execute is represented in the form of commands. The users are enabled to easily operate by making available some of the methods such as macros and scripts.

The resources of the computer are used in minimal by CLI.

CLI Elements

CLI Elements

The different elements of the CLI are as follows -

  • Command Prompt – The command prompt displays the user context. Software system generates the command prompt.
  • Cursor – The position of the character that is being typed is represented by the small horizontal line or a vertical bar known as cursor. When something is written or deleted by the user, the cursor moves accordingly.
  • Command – The instruction that needs to be executed is known as command. On execution of the command, the output is displayed on the screen. Command prompt appears on the next line on production of the output.

Graphical User Interface

The user is facilitated with the graphical means for communicating with the system and which is known as Graphical User Interface. Hardware and software combine together and constitute GUI. The software is interpreted by the user with the help of GUI.

When compared with CLI, amount of the resources utilized is high for GUI. More complex GUI designs are developed by the designers and programmers for increasing the accuracy, efficiency and speed of the interface.

GUI Elements

The hardware or software system can be communicated through GUI by a means of different components.

Different ways by which the user is enabled to interact and work with the system are made available by the components of the GUI. GUI system includes the following elements -

GUI Elements

  • Window – The application contents that are displayed either as icons or as lists in a window. The structure of the file is demonstrated by a window. A window can be explored and a file ca ne easily found in the system. It is possible to minimize, resize or maximize the size of the window. They can be dragged and moved as desired on the screen. A window with another window of same application is known as child window.
  • Tabs – Users are enabled to open more than one document in the same window. This is facilitated by tabbed document interface. This feature is used by almost all the web browsers.
  • Menu – All the standard commands are collected, grouped together, arranged and are displayed at a place that is clearly visible inside the window. As desired, an option is provided to either hide or display the menu, by certain programming.
  • Icon – An application is replicated by small picture known as an icon. The application window can be visited and opened on clicking on this icon. All the programs installed on the system and the applications are displayed by using small pictures as Icons.
  • Cursor – Cursor include all the devices used for interaction such as mouse, digital pen, touch pad etc. The cursor acts according to the instruction of the hardware. The desired menu, window or an application can be selected by using a cursor.

Application specific GUI components

Some of the elements of components of GUI are specific to only GUI application. They are as follows -

  • Application Window – The operating system provides the constructs for many of the uses of application windows. The custom created windows are used instead as they include the application content.
  • Dialogue Box – A message is communicated to the user such that the user needs to act upon, by using a small window known as a child window or a dialog box. For instance, in order to delete, the application will generated a dialog box and which proceeds with the process of deletion only upon the receipt of the confirmation by the user through the dialog box.

Dialog Box

  • Text-Box – An area made available for the user to type the data.
  • Buttons – Some of the inputs are submitted to the software by using buttons.

GUI Buttons

  • Radio-button – For a specific input, when two options are made available, both of the options are displayed by Radio-button. This button enables to select only one.
  • Check-box – For all the options that are being selected by the user, a box is marked as checked.
  • List-box – All the available items are listed in the list-box. This enables the user to select from the list. The user is facilitated to select more than one item from the list.

GUI List

Other impressive GUI components are:

  • Sliders
  • Combo-box
  • Data-grid
  • Drop-down list

What are the different activities performed by a User Interface Design?

User Interface design performs many activities. The design and implementation of GUI is similar to that of SDLC design. Among the different models such as Waterfall, Iterative or Spiral, any one of them can be chosen for implementing GUI.

Some of the specific steps need to be satisfied or followed by any model that is selected for the design and the implementation of GUI. The steps are as follows -

GUI Process

  • GUI Requirement Gathering – All the functional and non-functional requirements of GUI need to be collected, gathered and maintained by the designers.
  • User Analysis – The user of the GUI is analyzed by the designer. As per the knowledge and level of competency of the user, the design is changed. Advanced GUI is implemented for the technical savvy user. More basic information on how to use the software is provided for the non-technical user.
  • Task Analysis – The task that is to be taken up the software is analyzed by the designer. In GUI the tasks are analyzed by breaking the major task into sub-tasks. The goals to be achieved by the GUI are determined by these tasks. The content that has to pass through the GUI is determined by the information that flows in the sub-tasks.
  • GUI Design & implementation – Considering the user environment, tasks and the knowledge about the requirements, GUI is designed and implemented. Initially GUI is implemented on a dummy project to testing.
  • Testing – GUI can be tested in different ways. Some of them include in-house verification, user involvement and introduction of beta version. The usability of GUI, the acceptance of GUI by the user and the GUI compatibility are Some of the aspects on which testing.

What are the different tools for GUI Implementation?

In any software system, GUI can be designed and implemented by using a variety of tools. Some of the tools are grounded on the basis of environment of the software.

A collection of GUI controls is facilitated by the tools of GUI implementation. Designers are enabled to alter the code for customizing the software.

The GUI tools are used for different purposed and used on different platforms. Based on the use and platform, GUI tools are classified into various segments.

Example

Mobile GUI, Computer GUI, Touch-Screen GUI.

GUI can be designed and implemented by using the following tools -

  • FLUID
  • AppInventor (Android)
  • LucidChart
  • Wavemaker
  • Visual Studio

What are the Golden Rules of User Interface?

The Golden Rules of the User Interface are as follows -

Strive for consistency

The actions must be arranged in a sequence in such a manner that they appear consistently. In some of the cases like menus, help screen the terms that are mostly identical need to be used. The commands that are involved need to be consistent.

Enable frequent users to use short-cuts

Users always desire to eradicate the repetition and shorten the use. For which many of the short-cut keys, macros and hidden commands are facilitated to the frequent users.

Offer informative feedback

The feedback provided by the system for the action of the operator must be informative. The feedback should be modest in case of minor and recurring actions. The feedback should be more substantial in case of major actions.

Design dialog to yield closure

The actions are categorized into different groups and by inserting a beginning, middle and end to each of the group. The feedback is structured in such a way that it is informative and is provided at the end of completion of each of the group. This provides the operations to feel accomplishment satisfaction. The operator is directed that the next group of actions can be taken up.

Offer simple error handling

The system should be designer in a manner that errors are not made by the user. In case of error being done by the user, it is the responsibility of the system to detect the error and provide methods to handle such errors.

Permit easy reversal of actions

This option of reversal of actions is very useful for the users. This feature can be applied on the options that are not familiar to know how a particular option works. The errors which are done can be undone by this feature. A single action or a group of actions can use the feature of reversal of action.

Support internal locus of control

When the users are technical savvy and knowledgeable, the software has to be designed in such a manner that the users are made to initiate the actions rather than only responding.

Reduce short-term memory load

Short-term memory load of the user can be reduced by following some of the techniques like consolidating the displays of multiple pages, motion frequency of the window need to be slow down, keep small displays etc.

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