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Creating a simple and usable interface

What is simplicity? Simplicity is the property of being effortless, clean and understandable. It is not unexpected then that simplicity is often thrived for in user interface design. Most people intuitively dislike complexity in devices and applications. Yes, a few individuals like finding out how stuff works, however for most of us, not being able to correctly use a device leads to wasted time and frustration, and that's not what we are to achieve. If you are able to take a complicated device or a piece of software and by some means [rearrange, reorganize and redesign] the interface to make it simple and intuitive to use, then you're right on the path to delivering a better user satisfaction. One of the options you can incorporate in your GUI design is Context based controls. There are a couple of attitudes you can take towards interface design that relate to context and consistency. One suggests that you have to keep key elements consistent throughout your applications or web portal to be sure that users know where everything is and don't get mixed up. The second approach is to modify key elements or navigation depending on the content of each screen or window. The context based approach is one where you display only the stuff the individual needs to finish the task they're working in that particular context. A good illustration of the two attitudes can be found in the recent redesign of the Microsoft Office GUI. Office 2003, along with its older siblings, followed the design principle of keeping things consistent. You had a bunch of toolbars shown in the window at all times, and the controls didn't change whether you were working with columns, graphics, text or pictures. Microsoft redesigned this interface for Office 2007 using a content related approach. At the top you now see a ribbon - or a number of buttons. When clicked upon, each tab shows a set of controls relevant to any given task, be it proofreading, processing graphics, or simply writing. The context related approach enables you to demonstrate fewer controls at any given time, but it also gives you more controls that are relevant to the current task. I wouldn't recommend choosing a context-heavy approach for general web interface design because for most webpages users expect to see consistent site-wide navigation. This is because every website is different, and it would make the browsing experience much harder if all the individual pages on a particular site were different too. Having said this, this can be utilized for web applications because they're not just simple websites - they're pieces of software that live in the cloud. People are likely to spend a lot of time on a web app and will have more opportunity to learn how it works. The complexity of some web apps means that you really need to utilize the context based approach, because if you don't, there will be too much on the screen at any given time for anyone to process. By showing only a few relevant controls for a given task, your users can figure out what to do in much less time.

 Standard Toolbar Icons

Standard Toolbar Icons

 Science Toolbar Icons

Science Toolbar Icons

Icon editor ArtIcons Pro can find, extract, edit and create Windows icons in color depths up to 16 million colors. Import and export icon images, create and handle icon libraries. It supports the new icon format introduced in Windows XP (8-bit transparency). Download it

XP Icon editor IconXP can edit and create Windows icons in color depths up to 32-bit True Color. It supports the new icon format introduced in Windows XP (8-bit transparency). You can customize desktop and folder icons. Download it

Icon converter Any to Icon allows you to convert multiple BMP, JPEG, GIF, PNG, WBMP and WMF images to Windows icons in one action. It also breaks down entire icon libraries into individual icons. You can change color resolution and size to create customized icons. Download it

Icon editor and builder IconUtils is a complete icon and cursor solution. IconUtils package can edit icons and cursors, manage icon and cursor libraries, convert icons into images (in various graphic formats) and vice versa, customize Windows desktop and folder icons. Download it

Icon converter Icon to Any allows you to convert Windows icons and cursors into BMP, JPG, PNG, GIF, ICO, CUR, WBMP and RC formats. It has a wizard interface. It's simple to process multiple files at once. You can find icons and make images for use on Web pages. Download it

Cursor editor ArtCursors allows you to edit Windows cursors in color depths up to 16 million colors. You also can search files and folders for cursors, import and export cursor images and create cursor libraries for better and more efficient storage. Download it

Viewer AhaView supports all popular graphic formats, including JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, ICO, CUR, ANI, WBMP. You can browse images in thumbnail mode, view pictures full screen with zooming features, convert images to JPEG, PNG, BMP formats and manage files. Download it

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