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Do Your Homework! (UI Standards)

Anyone remeber the (sometimes contentious) debates on software teams about coding conventions? Tabs vs. spaces, two space vs. four space vs. eight space indents, curly braces on same line vs. a new line, braces for all control structures vs. only where explicitly needed. You could probobly go on and on about what the little nits are in formatting your code. That's why coding conventions were invented; Apache, Sun, and GNU are just a few of the conventions that come to mind.

But if people get up-tight over stuff the end user dosen't see you'de think there would be a lot of demagauging going on in larger organizations where the UI is a seperate team entirely separate from the core of the applications. Well, there isn't as much mostly because codified standards do exist in what the user should see and how they should interact. Most of these standards deal with low level controls and widgets, but do address higher level concerns. Here are a few that I have found on the web.

Of course none of the ones I've found (or for that matter looked for) deal with web page design. That may be a bias on my part that web pages should be content and not a full featured applicaiton. But the idioms and patterns for interacting with and developing a page at a time system are quite different than a "rich" applicaiton.

Another thing I've found interesting is the widly varying level of depth that each standard goes into. For example the Microsoft standard (and to a lesser extent the Java standards) goes into pixel level counting and positioning, while others merely make mention of the screen size and don't address pixel level positioning. They all do have some basic overall usability principals that drive the desicions that are addressed before they get in to the sometimes arbitrary rules. And they all (at least now) say Multiple Document Interface (MDI) bad, Single Document Interface (SDI) good (although Microsoft's take is "MDI bad, but if you're doing it here's how it's done").

Of course the down side of following a standard is that when using one to justify design decisions you are bound to pretty much the whole standard. You cannot just bring up standards when it helps your decisions but ignore it when you disagree with it.

Comments (1)

Wow, I like your new look! Also somewhat off-topic, I still like MDI's, I never understood why they went out of vogue (in fact, I rather hate how Office works now, opening a new window for each document - ick). But maybe I'm just a dinosaur.

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