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Mark Miller

The Essence of Great UI - An Overview

I've decided to spend some time doing a brain dump of everything I know about great user experiences. Here's the first of what I hope will be a fun and inspiring journey. I also expect this series will serve as a replacement for the book on great UI that I'm unlikely to ever write....

The most important thing to start with is the knowledge that great UI is all about three things:

  • Clarity

  • Efficiency

  • Discoverability

Clarity is the ease of understanding presented information.

Efficiency is the ease of control and movement through the data. There are obvious physical components to this, and there are not-so-obvious mental components as well.

Discoverability is the ease of finding and understanding that which lies below the surface.

So the challenge to creating a great UI is to maximize all three of these. However, this is rarely easy to do, as there are many paths we might take, and natural tensions that exist along those paths.

In future posts, I'll show how to measure efficiency, clarity, and discoverability, and talk about interesting ways we can improve these elements of the user experience. And as always, I encourage interaction and ideas from you. Feel free to post a comment below, or email me directly at markm at the Dev Express domain.

No series on great UI would be complete without a discussion about the value of great UI. And so in future posts we'll show how to measure the cost of poor UI. Today, I'll just leave you with an observation you may find interesting. There appear to be correlations among the following:

CorrelationBetweenGreatUIandIncome2

In the next post, we'll look at why great UI is so hard to achieve.

Published Feb 05 2009, 08:52 AM by
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Comments

Defacto Software

This is most welcome as we are about to hire someone just to improve the UI of our (ASP.NET) programs. Looking forward to the articles.

February 5, 2009 3:06 PM

Geert Depickere

Income can be a great "motivator" for developers.

So, you could add a feedback loop from "Your Income" to "Great UI" to make the story complete :-)

February 6, 2009 2:48 AM

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February 6, 2009 10:53 AM

Robert Fuchs

Seems every vendor is offering user experience guidance these days: http://quince.infragistics.com

February 6, 2009 11:35 AM

DotNetShoutout

Thank you for submitting this cool story - Trackback from DotNetShoutout

February 6, 2009 11:54 AM

Christoph Brändle

IT stands for information technology, so information is the content it's all about. But this thoughts go much further than that, interesting how information can be combined with how to present information. Hopefully there will be an article of how to consume information.

Mark, how many years you consider to get such wisdom?

February 8, 2009 5:25 AM

Steve Bohlen

Looking forward to this as a more permanent (searchable!) way for you to get some of the same content that you've been introducing in your talks and various interviews on several podcasts; thanks for this -- I find your observations about UX, mental friction forced on users by poor info display, etc. to be very illuminating.

February 8, 2009 10:39 PM

Michael Gamble

The one thing I keep coming back to of late is how the combination of WF and WPF / SilverLight means the entire paradigm we have used for the past 10+ years may be dead or at least dying. All of us that have been waiting breathlessly for a Data Grid may already be missing the boat? If WFP presents to you the work that is needed now is a Data Grid even needed? Maybe a collection of Icons representing the objects needing attention with dynamic links  that change according to the task needed is the route to go, just my two cents.

February 9, 2009 12:16 PM

Mark Miller (DevExpress)

Christoph,

With regard to your question about years experience to gain such wisdom, I've been researching, with the goal of understanding/formulating what constitutes great UI, for almost 10 years.

February 10, 2009 5:28 PM

Why is Great UI so hard to achieve? - Mark Miller

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February 10, 2009 5:37 PM

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About Mark Miller (DevExpress)

Mark Miller is a C# MVP with strong expertise in decoupled design, plug-in architectures, and great UI. Mark is Chief Architect of the IDE Tools division at Developer Express, and is the visionary force behind productivity tools like CodeRush and Refactor!, as well as the DXCore extensibility layer for Visual Studio. Mark is a popular speaker at conferences around the world and has been writing software for over two decades.
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