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Good UI

Usually, I like to complain about bad UI.  That's easy.  There is so much bad UI in the world, it's hard not to.  I try to take an extra step and describe how to fix the bad UI to make it better.

For a change, I'd like to point out one small piece of good UI:


 Do you see it?  It's the little pieces of plastic glued onto the monitor bezel that show exactly with what the buttons are supposed to be associated.  It's a very simple solution to a problem that's been nagging nearly every ATM that's been made.

The core issue is human stereoscopic vision and parallax.  The association of buttons to screen shifts based on your perspective - and that varies on how tall you are, how you're standing, and so on.  The fix is simple: provide a frame of reference.

The only thing that's missing from this machine now is appropriate sight-impaired access.  I didn't see any braille pips on the machine - big mistake, in my opinion.

One thing you, as a producer of content or UI, should also be aware of is color blindness.  The most common in men is protanopia, or red/green color blindness.  This is a good one to be aware of in UI since 1% of your male users will have protanopia.  It is very common to use green and red as go/no-go colors in UI, unfortunately, without any other kind of visual cue it will be virtually impossible to distinguish success and failure based on that.

For an example of how not to do this, check out what the GUI runner used to look like in NUnit.  It used simple circles of color for go/no-go.  Since then, they've made a change to the appearance to include an icon as an additional visual cue.  This is the right thing to do - not just from a protanopia standpoint, but also from an information standpoint.  If a user's culture doesn't include "green means go", this will add an extra hint without making the UI too busy.

If you're ever unsure, you might want to try the filter at wickline.org.  It's a great tool to show you what web pages look like from the point of view of someone with anomalous color vision.   If you're working on a desktop UI, you could upload a snapshot of your UI and then view it through the filter.

If you're curious, no, I do not have protanopia.  I really became aware of it at at Adobe when I was working with an engineer who did.  We had a ROM burner in a lab for making test ROMs for PostScript printers.  This burner used tri-color LEDs to show burning/success/failure with yellow/green/red.  Whenever he burned ROMs, he needed to get someone else to tell him what happened.  I suspect that for this device, making the red condition also flash would've been a better solution without substantially raising the cost of the device.

Published Monday, July 09, 2007 10:44 AM by Steve Hawley
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Friday, February 29, 2008 5:34 PM by Rolphus

# re: Good UI

On the "what if blind people need access", the more modern ATMs in the UK have a 1/8" inch headphone socket which I believe provides audio prompts explaining what's happening.

I believe braille would be difficult to implement around the screen, as the buttons can mean different things at different points in the process, and dynamic braille machines seem rather fragile (and not exactly weather-proof).

In the UK, the keypad has braille for some of the numbers and buttons - I believe this is enough for someone blind to be able to orient themselves.

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