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Making a clean and usable interface

What is simplicity? That is the quality of being effortless, clean and easy to understand. It is not unexpected then that simplicity is often thrived for in GUI design. People intuitively dislike complexity in hardware and applications. Of course, a few individuals like finding out how something works, but for the major population, being unable to correctly use an interface 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 GUI to make it easy to use and understand, then you're well on the way to providing a better user experience. One of the options you can use in your interface design is Context based controls. There are a few of approaches you can use in GUI design that relate to context and unity. One dictates that you should keep controls consistent throughout your software or web portal to ensure that users know where things are and don't get confused. The second approach is to adjust key elements or navigation according to the content of each page or window. The context based option is one where you display only the stuff the person needs to finish the process they've approached in that single context. A good example of the two attitudes can be found in the recent redesign of the Microsoft Office GUI. Office 2003, as well as all the previous versions, followed the design principle of leaving the controls unchanged. You had a bunch of buttons shown on the screen at all times, and the controls remained unchanged no matter if you were working with columns, graphics, text or pictures. Microsoft remodeled this interface in the release of Office 2007 applying a content based approach. At the top you now see a ribbon - or a number of tabs. When clicked upon, each tab shows a pack of controls related to any specific task, be it proofreading, processing graphics, or simply writing. The context based approach enables you to show fewer interface elements at any given time, but it also gives you more controls that are critical to the task at hand. I wouldn't advice using a context-heavy approach for general web design because for most websites 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

Icon editors