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Developing a simple and usable interface

What is simplicity? That is the quality of being natural, clean and easy to understand. It is not unexpected then that simplicity is often worshiped in user interface design. Often people intuitively dislike complication in hardware and software. Yes, some individuals find joy in figuring out how stuff works, however for the major population, being unable to operate a device causes wasted time and frustration, and that's not a good thing. If you are able to take a complex device or a piece of software and by some means [rearrange, reorganize and redesign] the GUI to make it simple and intuitive to use, then you're right on the path to providing a better user satisfaction. One of the techniques you can use in your interface design is Context based controls. There are a few of attitudes you can take towards GUI design that relate to context and unity. One dictates that you should keep key elements similar throughout your software or web portal to ensure that users know where things are and don't get confused. The other approach is to modify controls or navigation based on the context of each page or window. The content based approach is one where you display only the stuff the individual needs to finish the task they've approached in that particular context. A good example of the two attitudes can be found in the revision of the Microsoft Office interface. Office 2003, along with its older siblings, followed the design principle of leaving the controls unchanged. You had a bunch of toolbars shown in the window constantly, and these remained unchanged no matter if you were working with tables, graphics, text or images. Microsoft remodeled this interface in the release of Office 2007 applying a content based approach. At the top you now see a toolbar - or a set of tabs. When clicked upon, each tab reveals a pack of controls relevant to any specific task, be it spell checking, processing graphics, or just writing. The context related approach enables you to show fewer controls at any single time point, but it also gives you more controls that are relevant to the task at hand. I wouldn't advice choosing a context-heavy approach for all-purpose web interface design because for most webpages users expect to see unchanging 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

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