Window Research 2: Window Uses

by Luke Wroblewski December 21, 2003

Hix, Deborah, & Harston Rex H. (1993). Developing User Interfaces: Ensuring Usability through Product and Process. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

  1. Use different windows for different independent tasks –allow users to work on more than one part of an application at once, or more then one application at once.
  2. Use different windows for different coordinated views of the same task –results of tasks can be more understandable by presenting those results to the user in various forms.

Apple Computer, Inc. (1992). Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.

Utility Windows

  1. Is a small accessory window with additional tools or controls for users.
  2. “float” on top of document windows.
  3. Useful for keeping extremely important controls or information accessible at all times in the context of a user task.

Zeite, Carl. (1995). Practical User Interface Design: Making GUI’s Work. London: McGraw Hill Book co.

The vast majority of windows fall into one of three categories: documents, modeless dialog boxes(tools), and modal dialog boxes (alerts, confirmations…)

Galitz, Wilbert O. (1996). The Essential Guide to User Interface Design. New York. John Wiley & Sons

Useful in the following ways

  1. Presentation of Different Levels of Information –examined in various levels of detail. Deeper levels are possible on additional windows.
  2. Presentation of Multiple Levels of Information –variable information needed to complete a task can be displayed simultaneously in adjacent windows.
  3. Sequential Presentation of Levels or Kinds of Information –Steps to accomplish a task can be sequentially presented through windows.
  4. Access to different sources of Information –Independent sources of information may have to be accessed at the same time. This information may be presented alongside the problem to facilitate its solution.
  5. Combining Multiple Sources of Information –text from several documents may have to be reviewed and combined into one. Pertinent information is selected from one window and copied into another.
  6. Performing More than one Task –More than one task can be performed at one time. Tasks of higher importance can interrupt less important ones.
  7. Reminding –remind viewer of things likely to be of use in the near future.
  8. Monitoring –internal and external changes can be monitored. Data in one window can be modified and its effect on data in another window can be studied.
  9. Multiple Representations of the same task –the same thing can be looked at in several ways: alternate drafts, different representations of data.

Shneiderman, Ben. (1998). designing the Use Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.

Tight coupling among windows is the interface concept that supports coordination:

  1. Synchronized scrolling –scroll bar of one window causes the other to scroll the associated window contents.
  2. Hierarchical browsing –one window contains the table of contents, select of chapter title should lead to display (in an adjoining window) of the chapter contents.
  3. Two-dimensional Browsing –map or overview in one window, and the details in another.
  4. Direct Selection –shows an overview of map, graphic, etc. in one window, and the details in a second window.
  5. Dependent-windows opening –on opening a window, dependent windows are opened in a nearby and convenient location.
  6. Dependent-windows closing –upon closing a window, all dependent windows close also.
  7. Save or open state window –extension of saving document or preferences is saving the current state of the display, with all windows and their contents.

Apple Computer, Inc. (1992). Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.

Window behaviors

  1. Active window is frontmost and visually distinct from other windows on the screen.
  2. All other windows are inactive. Things can happen to documents in inactive windows, but only the active window interacts with the user.
  3. In should remain visible, don’t display a selection in an inactive window –users might get confused where next action will take place.
  4. Sections on Moving, window Order, Scrolling, zooming, and splitting…

Wood, Larry, ed. (1998) User Interface Design: Bridging the Gap from User Requirements to Design. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

  1. Chained windows vs. parent/child windows
  2. When steps are in strict sequence -used chained windows
  3. Child windows pop up or invoked by user to handle exceptions
  4. To move between tasks users requested a task list.
  5. While moving back and forth between multiple windows/tasks is common in nay windowing environment, users identified the requirement for displaying only one window at full size, concerned that customers, also looking at the screen, might be distracted by partially visible windows.