Re: User Interfaces

Jason Williams (
Fri, 29 May 1998 02:53:35 -0500 (CDT)

On Thu, 28 May 1998, Cragin Shelton wrote:
> There has been continuing debate on this list about the interface on
> Cornell, 2.x, and 3.x versions of CU-SeeMe. My own experience is that very
> few users or designers of software actually study available research and
> advice about user interface design. For those that want to bolster their
> ammunition to defend their favorite or puke on anything they consider an
> abomination, I recommend a couple of excellent books, both available from

Actually, I did a term paper on User Interfaces for a Software Engineerign
class this last term. So I DID read up on it a bit. :)

>From a simple aspect, you want a user interface to be powerful without
being overly complex. Taking extra steps to accomplish the same thing
usually isn't preferred unless it is more intuitive to do it that way.

Let's take a small comparison between the 2.1.2 Enhanced CU version and A very controlled example would be: "How do I connect to a
reflector at a specific conference ID that's not in the current phone
book using the default rates?"
For 2.1.2:
1) Select Conference -> PhoneBook (if the Phone Book isn't already up)
2) Click on Address and type in the IP
3) Click on Conference ID and type in the ID
4) Click Call

1) Click Manual Dial
2) Click Internet Address and type in the IP
3) Click the Conference tab
4) Click Conference ID and type in the ID
5) Click Manual Dial

This is the worst case scenario. Using 2.1.2, Step 1) might be optional
if the Phone Book is already displayed (For me, it was already displayed
when I loaded 2.1.2).

The main added step is having to click another tab. Since all the
functions are related, it makes more logical sense to place the Conference
ID and other parameters directly on the Manual Dial screen. One other
thing to notice is the wasted screen space in the Manual Dial screen to
begin with, About 1/3 of the Manual Dial screen is dedicated to
"Options". There's only one option there. "Option" itself is a rather
vague term for a User Interface. Perhaps "Connect Options" would better
explain it. Does that imply that the Conference ID isn't an "option"?
Why does it deserve it's own tab?

Another issue is the fact that only the IP address is stored in the Manual
Dial. The Conference ID vanishes if you use Manual Dial again. Contrast
this with the 2.1.2 PhoneBook where you can leave the PhoneBook loaded (or
minimized so that it doesn't waste screen space) and it keeps the IP AND
Conference ID stored. So if you wish to redial the same reflector again,
2.1.2 makes it possible. makes it impossible without
remembering the Conference ID you were at.

This is just ONE example of how the GUI was made more complicated..And
yes, it DOES take more steps to accomplish a lot of the same things.
Another thing to note, is that the Cornell 1.0 version uses the same
Phone Book style as 2.1.2, so the steps to connect are the same for it.

Those do sound like some pretty good books though... :)

--    * Jason Williams -- Austin, Tx.  |     |       * University of Texas at Austin  | ___ |         * BS Computer Science             \_|_/
*************** **************|