Sunday, December 24, 2006

Wet and Dry UI

I use screen wipes to clean my monitors. These are the wet/dry systems that you find at your local office supply store. I typically do it every week and I don't look forward to it.

It's not because it's messy or that it takes a lot of time. It's because I have to figure out which one is the "wet" and the "dry" pad. The two pad system is very frustrating because even though I've been doing a lot, I still have trouble figuring it out.

It's best to show you what the two pad system looks like --

Which one is the wet and which one is the dry?

Well, if you look closely, the one on the right is the wet (actually, the resolution is horrible, but take my word for it. The wet one is on the right). Right before the French instructions, you'll see the words "Wet Wipe."

It's the same for the dry.

The problem with the "UI" is that the font is way too small -- for everything. Second, in the area where differential occurs (i.e. "Wet" and "Dry"), these areas look identical.

Where visual differences are required to provide distinction, it's best to make them stand out. Especially when you're relying on typography to guide the user, it's best to highlight the areas where you want your users to look (and act).

People look for visual clues to do things. By making the font properties identical (size, weight, color, etc.), you leave the impression that the two wipes have the same importance and that order doesn't matter when in fact they do.

The wet pad is on the right. If that pad is used first, shouldn't that pad be on the left? At least for the U.S., that makes sense.

When we design UI, we need to think about how we can make it easier for our users to do what they need to do. For the screen cleaning system, the most basic of that is letting the user know, "Hey, the pad on the left is the wet one. Use that first."

It's not to switch the order of things and make the font super tiny so that its difficult to read. Screen wipes are supposed to be easy to use.

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