Category User Interface

User Interface Requirements

February 13, 2008 0 comments

Always Tell Users the Requirements for Username and Password Up Front

When creating a new account, user should be given feedback on every character typed. As the user enters an id, the design tells them it is too short or contains illegal characters.

Try not to Require Strict Password Requirements

Many people choose passwords based on the underlying importance of the information. They ask themselves, "How much trouble will I get into if this information gets out?" Several folks we talked to use a small number of passwords, each chosen for the underlying security.

The tougher the security policy, the more likely their regular passwords won't work. That will mean they need to create and remember a new password -- something that involves a lot of cognitive work (and probably not work they thought they'd have to sign up for). It's important that sites not go overboard with security requirements unless there's a lot of risk involved with a breach.

Do not Challenge Users with Questions - They Won't Remember then

One user was recently locked out of their own bank account because they couldn't remember the answers to the challenge questions. It had been almost two years since they first entered the information. One of the questions, "What street did you grow up on?" confused them, since they had moved frequently. They couldn't remember if they'd said the name ("Forest") or the entire street ("Forest Drive").

Explain If It’s The Username or Password Users Got Wrong

Returning to a site users hadn't used since last holiday season, the user entered what they thought was their email address and password, but it didn't work. The error message was a simple, "Invalid Login. Please Try Again." Was the password wrong or did they register with a different email address? (After all, they have had several over the years.)

To add insult to injury, they have two separate recovery procedures: one for the wrong User ID and one for the wrong password. The best sites have a single, simple recovery process regardless of the user's error.

Getting The Most From Design Deliverables

The design deliverables are a critical bridge between designers and developers. Both the documents and the process that produces and delivers them deserve careful attention.

The problem is compounded as the tools for interactions become more complex. As we see client-server interaction become more sophisticated and interaction capabilities, such as drag-and-drop, become richer, a simple "write-up" can't do the project justice. The most successful teams play close attention to the critical goals behind their deliverables.

Getting Everyone on the Same Page

In our universe, problems occur because the developers can't read the designers' minds. It's not that the designers are deliberately keeping important details from the developers. It's that, when you're neck deep in thinking about a problem, it's hard to know if you communicated all the details in your head.

Static images make it hard to show dynamic activity. It becomes more difficult when that motion is triggered by users actions that don't have corresponding visible controls, like a mouse-hover behavior.

Communicating the design rationale, along with the finalized design description, can help the development team maintain the integrity of the high priority elements throughout the implementation process.

Reducing Development Costs

In the ideal universe, every aspect of the design would work perfectly on the first implementation, without ever needing "redo" work.

Having a working prototype is useful, but it's better when you have accurate use cases to work with. The teams with well-researched personals and scenarios found it easy to create their use cases, helping them validate their prototypes. By running the prototypes against the use cases, they could see where the design would hold up and where it fell flat.

When updating an existing design, a couple of teams used before-and-after images to help communicate the differences. Seeing the old design next to the new design, along with a clear description of the changes, helped the development team plot out their work.

The Ultimate User Test

If you're ever lucky enough to have the chance, simply watch someone navigate your site. Don't prompt them, coach them, or correct them. Merely observe. Even for seasoned systems and usability professionals, it's a profoundly humbling experience.

Usability checklist

Clarity of Communication

  • Does the site convey a clear sense of its intended audience?
  • Does it use language in a way that is familiar to and comfortable for its readers?
  • Is it conversational in its tone?


  • Is load time appropriate to content, even on a slow dial-in connection?
  • Is it accessible to readers with physical impairments?
  • Is there an easily discoverable means of communicating with the author or administrator?


  • Does the site have a consistent, clearly recognizable "look-&-feel"?
  • Does it make effective use of repeating visual themes to unify the site?
  • Is it visually consistent even without graphics?


  • Does the site use (approximately) standard link colors?
  • Are the links obvious in their intent and destination?
  • Is there a convenient, obvious way to maneuver among related pages, and between different sections?

Design & maintenance

  • Does the site make effective use of hyper links to tie related items together?
  • Are there dead links? Broken CGI scripts? Functionless forms?
  • Is page length appropriate to site content?

Visual Presentation

  • Is the site moderate in its use of color?
  • Does it avoid juxtaposing text and animations?
  • Does it provide feedback whenever possible?
  • (for example, through the use of an easily recognizable ALINK color, or a "reply" screen for forms-based pages)

Posted by lisa
Categories: User Interface