Designing for Usability Primer

In this forum you can share tips and tricks on how to use Cinemar products with some program or a task that you want it to do. So no one has to reinvent the wheel if you already did! (No questions in this forum only solutions, questions will be deleted without hesitation.)

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Designing for Usability Primer

Postby lathanm » Sun Nov 12, 2006 7:17 pm

Designing for Usability Primer

Disclaimer: I don't claim to be the king of UI design. I am just a user like you that needs to keep the WAF of everything I do as high as possible. Don't take offence if I single out a practice that you are using in your system. I pick on all systems, including my own, equally. Call it a bit of tough love and move on.

Congratulations you have completed you design and now you can control every light in your and your neighbor's house, reroute satellites so you have perfect signal from DTV and XM and record pictures and video of that evil dog that keeps defiling your lawn. You just have one small problem, you are the only one that can use anything. You are the perfect candidate for simplification. I don't mean ripping out the system and starting over just rearranging the access to the various parts of the system.

To keep this primer short I am no going to go over things like button choices, color selection and back end coding. After all I have a life and I need to have something to write about later ;).

Streamlining: Eliminate unnecessary steps
Do you really need irrigation control on every panel's home screen? Does the entryway panel need to control the upstairs TV/DVD combo? Do I really need to tell the status up every audio source just to control the radio in the room I am currently in? Why do I have so many button click and scene changes just to turn on the TV? The answers to these will are the first steps in streamlining.

If you are using multiple clients in your install try and customize each one for its primary purpose. This can be as simple as having the home scene on an entry way panel default to the security scene and a living room panel start in video mode. Or more complex like having room specific designs and layouts. So if your room is all reds and blacks changing the colors to match the room are a nice WAF perk, hey I am married to a graphic artist.

With a single mobile client look at the primary room you are using it in and make the controls default to that room. Give the users an option to control other rooms but don't make it the default.

Cut back on controlling the world by default. The best example of this is the 0019 scenes, Media defaults to the Russound panel. Great, just one small problem before you can choose a source you have to choose a room. Extra steps that could easily be eliminated by looking at the client name and knowing what room it is in. No chances of the user controlling the wrong room, kids are notorious for this one. I know, it is a generic demo install but things like this should be your first customizations.

Boost the WAF: This button does what?
Label everything you can with simple names. This is a big WAF boost. Names like source X and zone Y and input HDMI don't mean the same things to all people. The more descriptive the labels the better. So start switching those sources to say what they are and the zones to the names of the rooms. Even better with zones, say it with pictures. The maps in 0019 are great examples of how to get allot of information across without needing to explain anything.

Use composite controls but don't abuse them. D-pads are one of the best friends in interface design. It allows you to do so much with just 5 simple buttons. The downside is buttons can pull double or triple duty so you have to either use toggles to get to the other functions or add a second d-pad. It is normally safer to add a second d-pad vs. using toggles. This is especially true if you have common controls through a d-pad. For example most DVR's have 2 because you need to control both the menus and the playback controls fairly heavily so toggling is not worth the hassle.

Information Overload: Buttons, buttons everywhere, and I still can't find what I am looking for.

Repeat after me "White space is my friend!" I have seen several designs that control everything beautifully but the buttons are so densely packed that it is amazing that anyone can use it without a 10 minute introduction to the system. This goes back to the first point but is so important. The lower the button count and the more you do behind the scenes the easier it is for users. This is one I had to learn the hard way on my own system. At one point I had discrete buttons for each surround mode on my receiver of which only 3 ever saw use. 30 buttons and only 3 seeing use. The fewer buttons you can have on a scene the better things run for users. Try it, it really works. Harmony, now Logitech, built an entire industry on a 6 button remote. So what if you have to build another scene. By now you are already streamlining you scenes so splitting things up should be easy right... ;)

EOF (Do you have any idea how hard it is to write a witty closing :p )
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Postby AFTerry » Sat Jan 13, 2007 1:17 pm

Thanks, this is more helpfull than you might imagine.

Really! =D>

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