UI Design Thoughts - Overview

By Gerd Waloszek

To overview of columns

On my column pages, I present stories and articles covering a number of user interface (UI) design topics. The stories on this page discuss general thoughts about UI design. On another page, I present stories that deal with "stupid" users, that is, DAUs (DAU = dumbest assumable users). Usually, it's me. And on still another one, I touch on various UI design issues.

I published these articles on an SAP-internal User Experience Website, but closed that section for a number of reasons in 2008. On this site, I republish my articles (a few have also been published on the SAP Design Guild Website) hoping that some visitors will find them useful and interesting. However, I removed all SAP specifics.

Welcome screen

I Am not a Machine...

In this article, I complain about start-up screens and wizards requiring decisions which distract me and which I would like to defer to the end of my work.

Detail of mineral water poster

Usable Applications Are Good for Your Health!

This time, I was inspired by a poster for a mineral water brand, which I passed by each morning when riding my bicycle to work. The advertisement promotes the water's mineral nutrients and trace elements as being beneficial to our health. This stirs up some thoughts and finally leads me to ask, how users can opt for software that causes less psychological strain and secures their health. (Also published as SAP Design Guild editorial)

New Apple logo

A Branding Story – How the New Apple Logo Was Created

For years, Apple Computers had a logo showing an apple in rainbow colors. With the introduction of Mac OS X, they changed the logo. Read the true story of how the new logo was created.

The usability triangle

Some Thoughts on Creativity

There is currently much ballyhoo around "creativity" and "innovation" in my company. As usual, I am somewhat skeptical. I do not argue that creativity is not needed in designing professional user interfaces – it is, but in a much more constrained fashion than designers generally assume.

Romanesco cauliflower, a fractal

Fighting the Rectangle

When you look at natural objects, you will rarely find a true rectangle or even square. Apart from some crystals or algae, shapes of natural objects, be they inanimate or living, do rarely resemble simple geometrical shapes (there are some exceptions, though). Even the so-called "checkerboard" butterfly does not really show a checkerboard pattern. Computers, however, love rectangles. Not only are most computers squeezed into rectangular boxes, so is the information that they display in order to communicate with humans: Computer screens are rectangular, screen windows, too, and what's inside the windows to a large degree as well


To Err Is Human – A Two-Sided Issue...

When searching for new quotes to publish on the SAP Design Guild, I scanned Don Norman's book the Design of Everyday Things, that I had just read – and I was successful: I found two interesting quotes in chapter To Err is Human. They highlight the fact that people make errors, and that, if there is a chance for error, someone will eventually make this error. But I felt somewhat uneasy with Norman's statements. After a while, I knew why: Norman's view of errors is – at least with respect to these two statements – incomplete.


Which One Comes First, Object or Action?

The"object-action approach" means to that users select an object first and then perform an action on it. For example, the user selects a document icon on the computer desktop and then chooses an action from the pulldown or context menu, such as Open. This procedure has been so widely adopted and therefore so deeply engrained into our behaviors that we don't even think about it. But a few "old hats" like me may faintly remember that there had been something different way back in the past: the action-object approach...

Plazes Website

Looking into the Future – Web 4.0

At a meeting, a colleague gave an interesting presentation about Web 2.0, the "social Web." He stated: "It's more an attitude than technology" – even though he admitted that some technology is involved. Most of us are still deeply rooted in Web 1.0, that is, in the dull past. In this article, I will step even beyond my colleague's forecast and reach out as far as Web 4.0.

Designer Washbasin

Works as Designed vs. Works as Expected

When a device works to our satisfaction, we often say that it "works as designed," meaning that it comes up to the promises that its designer or manufacturer has made. Following Clarisse Sieckenius de Souza, we have a case at hand where the user perfectly understands the message that the designer sent to him or her through the interface.

Sometimes, however, the designer's message is not as clear to the users, and there are reports of users who handled devices or used applications in unexpected ways (as far as the designer is concerned)... I fear that there are also instances where the users don't even think of the designer at all. But there are cases, where I would like to know the designer and quarrel with him or her as the designer's deputy's voice is far too low for me to understand...

Apple iPod Shuffle clipped to beard

Six Ways of Wearing an Apple iPod Shuffle

At previous CHI conferences, there was much ballyhoo around wearable computers, digital jewelry, and intelligent clothes (see, for example, CHI 2002 – Changing the World, Changing Ourselves). In the meantime, not too much has happened in that area, to put it mildly. Luckily, a company that is well-known for its innovative products stepped into the breach: Apple Computers Inc. presented the iPod. Even though the iPod is not a "real," that is universal, computer, it is a computer anyway – one that not only creates music from digital bits but also looks cool and therefore is a welcome body companion. While Apple is offering a complete line of different iPod models in the meantime, the tiny iPod Shuffle comes closest to the concept of digital jewelry. But its users are confused. How should they wear this precious piece of digital jewelry? Therefore, I decided to overcome these shortcomings with proposing six ways of wearing an Apple iPod Shuffle...

Apple iPod touch

Clicking is Easy – As Long as You Know Where to Click and How...

Recently, the new iPod touch was presented. As the Apple Website was busy, I downloaded the video. Its basic message was: The iPod touch is easy to use – a click here, a click there, and you're done. Simply amazing – the presenter was hooked on the device! Considered that the iPod touch is so easy to use, would I donate one to my 83-years-old mother for browsing the Web and, for example, look for health information? That's very unlikely, because I do not believe that my mother will succeed with the iPod touch. There we have a discrepancy: From one perspective, performing tasks with a device or piece of software seems simple and easy – it requires just a few button presses or mouse clicks. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who still fail (or, as in the case of my mother, are assumed to fail...). In this article, I ask for the reasons why people nevertheless fail.

Apple Mail

My Disease – Amnesia to Previous Versions...

Recently, I drew the Tiger out of my home and let the Leopard in – on all of my computers at home, of course, I do not like half-baked things.Yesterday evening, my wife sat at her computer, while I sat at mine, a fairly common settings at my home. My wife was busy with her favorite application, Apple Mail, and wanted to tidy up her ever overflowing e-mail inbox. Therefore, she wanted to add a new folder for storing e-mails under a certain label. After a while she started railing: "Where is this damned command for creating a new e-mail folder? It was so easy doing that in the previous Mail version, but now I can't find the command even though I searched everything over and over!" – This article tells how this true story continues and how it led my thoughts towards a more general issue that I face: my amnesia to previous versions of software, devices, and even locations.

Marx and Hegel

Turning the Issues Upside Down...

In school, I learned that Karl Marx had claimed that he had put the philosopher Hegel from his head onto his feet, or better, he had turned Hegel upside down (in German: "das Unterste zuoberst gekehrt"; others claim that the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach did that first). In this article, I will also turn a long-standing issue upside down, though not a philosophical one (you never know, though...): the technology-usability issue.

Last Revision: 02/01/2009

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Gerd Waloszek
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