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Making a clean and usable interface

What is simplicity? Simplicity is the quality of being effortless, plain and understandable. It is not unexpected then that simplicity is often thrived for in user interface design. Often people naturally dislike confusion in hardware and applications. Of course, some people find joy in figuring out how stuff works, however for most of us, not being able to operate a device leads to wasted time and disappointment, and that's not a good thing. If you can take a complicated piece of hardware or a software application and somehow [rearrange, reorganize and redesign] the GUI to make it simple and intuitive to use, then you're well on the path to providing a better user satisfaction. One of the options you can use in your GUI design is Context based controls. There are several of attitudes you can take towards interface design that relate to context and unity. One dictates that you should keep key elements consistent throughout your applications or web portal to ensure that users know where things are and don't get confused. The second approach is to modify key elements or navigation depending on the content of each screen or window. The content based option is one where you display only the items the person needs to finish the task they're working in that single context. A good example of the two approaches can be seen in the recent redesign of the Microsoft Office interface. Office 2003, along with all the previous versions, followed the design principle of leaving the controls unchanged. You had a bunch of toolbars displayed in the window at all times, and these remained unchanged no matter if you were working with columns, graphics, text or images. Microsoft remodeled this interface for Office 2007 applying a content related approach. At the top you now see a ribbon - or a set of buttons. When selected, each tab displays a set of controls related to any given task, be it spell checking, processing images, or just writing. The context based approach allows you to demonstrate fewer controls at any single time point, but at the same time, more controls that are critical to the task at hand. I wouldn't advice using a context-heavy approach for all-purpose web interface design because for most websites users want 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

Customize desktop icons CustomIcons is an ultimate tool for customizing the icons on you desktop, in Windows Start menu and many other locations. Using CustomIcons you can easily replace default Windows icons with the ones to your choice. Download it

Icon editors