* Gold Medalist
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
Chris Bucher Human Resource MicroSystems
All I brought to the 1994 Developers Competition was a 486 laptop computer, database software, and Jen Peterson, whose encouragement and smile made the difference: I received the Gold medal in the GUI category.
As I've learned since then, graphical user interfaces (GUIs) have come a long way since their first introduction. As vendors provide us with better tools and controls to work with, we're able to create very sophisticated applications that are very easy to use.
Many tools are available in the marketplace for designing GUIs. The tool I used for the Competition was FoxPro 2.6 for Windows. I could have produced the same interface using a number of different tools, but I chose FoxPro for its speed. After you learn the methods and concepts of a good GUI, simply pick a tool you're comfortable with and start designing.
The methods that I used revolve around one word: consistency. There are many aspects of a good GUI, and for me the key is consistency If a user is using module 1 and clicks on the Save button, then goes to module 2 and finds the Save button in a different place, that user is bound to get confused. The more consistent an application is, the easier it is to use. Further, if everything is consistent in your application, users will be able to learn one module and have a good grasp as to how all the other modules work.
Another method I used is that of presenting the user with uncluttered screens using the appropriate control for each input field. I also used icons to represent a particular task or function. I usually put one descriptive word under the icon, in case a user cannot interpret the icon's function. I like this approach better than the alternative: having the user hold the mouse over an icon for one second and seeing a tool tip appear.
The tools available today are good, and they'll only get better. I can see how OCX controls will play …