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Chapter 13. Advanced Layout Techniques > FileMaker Extra: User Interface Heuris...

FileMaker Extra: User Interface Heuristics

We opened this chapter by saying we'd not preach to you about what makes a good interface and what doesn't. Well, we're breaking our word here. Although we won't argue about pop-up windows versus single-pane applications, whether or not buttons should be 3D beveled or just text on the screen, here are a few guidelines we recommend to all of our clients, students, and developers alike.

  • Use real world terminology— You should strive to speak your customer's language. Use terms they'll find familiar. In some cases you may need to retrain them, but whenever possible, leverage the body of knowledge already in place in an organization to make your system more intuitive.

  • Impart meaning with more than just labels— Text is only one of many things your users will see on a layout. They'll also see colors, shapes, headlines, subheads, footers, and so on. Use all the objects in your toolbox to impart meaning: consider, for example, coloring find layouts differently or perhaps making navigation buttons look different from functional buttons.

  • Give users the freedom to “click around” without fear— Users should be able to cancel out of any destructive function (delete, for example) so that they can explore your application and learn by doing.

  • Be consistent— We can't stress this enough. Whatever colors, shapes, sizes, styles, and so on that you prefer, make sure your layouts follow whatever set of rules you establish. Name fields and buttons consistently, place them in the same positions, and give your users a visual grammar for your system they can learn.

  • Manage errors— Errors happen. Handle them behind the scenes whenever possible, but when they're unavoidable make sure you present the user with a graceful error routine that informs them, proffers a course of action, and then returns them to what they were doing.

  • Focus your screens— Less is more. White space is your friend. Leave the important bits on your layouts and dialogs and remove the objects that can be pushed elsewhere. If you offer focus to users, you will help them understand what to do on a given layout.

  • Remember your power users— Contrary to all the prior advice, don't forget your power users. Offer keyboard shortcuts through “Are you sure?” dialogs, give them simple Table view access to your data, and don't bother them with wizards.



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