Archives For Flex

Since our new book focuses on rich interactions, I want to spend some time on Adobe Flex/AIR.

These tips are based on the best Flex resources I have found, and how you can use them to craft a great user experience. This is part 3 of 6:

Learn from the Rest: 10 Great RIAs

Take a look at some of the best RIAs on the web. How did I decide these are the best? I reviewed numerous applications, basing the evaluations on Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Principles for User Interface Design:

Feedback — Metaphor — Navigation — Consistency — Prevention — Recognition — Efficiency — Design — Recovery — Help

I realize these guidelines are a bit old (from 1990!)- but all applications should meet these guidelines at a minimum. The applications listed below also embody our 6 Principles for Rich Interaction:

Make it Direct — Keep it Lightweight — Stay on the Page — Provide an Invitation — Use Transitions — React Immediately

01. CrazyEgg

crazyeggcrazyegg_confetti

Fantastic application which adheres to every one of the principles. At first, I thought the confetti feature was going to ruin the evaluation, but it is a perfect balance of innovation and usability. Look at how they use common checkboxes for selection, and wiggle the confetti when a source is added- very rich, very nice.

Interactive demo is available

02. Mint

mintmint_saver

Mint’s user experience only gets better and better. You may want more features in the product (money market support…), but the features they offer are perfectly executed. Primarily developed with HTML, CSS, JS and Ajax, they chose to incorporate Flex in the Trends section.

The new Ways to Save section is completely dynamic, updating as you adjust amounts, scores and preferences.

Free registration is available

03. Wufoo

wufoowufoostatistics

Wufoo is an extremely well designed tool that has more than meets the eyes. Play with the templates and report creator for inspiration in keeping it simple, and look at they way they use Blank Slate and Help Tips to keep you moving towards your goal. It is almost even fun!

A nice product tour and free plan is available

04. 280 Slides

280slides280slides_toolbar

One word- slick. If only all of my projects could be this perfect. Yes, it seems like Keynote (or PowerPoint) on the web, but take a closer look at some of the features. Instead of the maddening Inspector and Format menu, the common formatting functions are in the toolbar. Everything is there when I need it, they even incorporated Adobe Kuler in the color palette!

Free trial available

05. Action Method

actionmethodactionmethod_dialog

Another very well implemented product. It is easy to get started with the Blank Slate screens providing tips and directions, and even easier to get comfortable using the product because it uses a standard screen patterns and common controls.

Every detail has been accounted for. Notice the visual design that makes it clear that the tasks can be dragged around and reordered.

Trial version available

06. Fidelity Labs

fidelitymyplanfidelitylabs_mortage

In 2006 Fidelity Labs started cranking out some very nice RIAs, one of them being Fidelity MyPlan. The Mortgage Search and Homes Sold were also very nice, but have been retired. Unfortunately, their newest 3D Portfolio Analyzer, is not up to par with their earlier beta products.

The direct interactions and what-if scenarios in MyPlan seem to have inspired Discovers Paydown Planner and other direct manipulation financial planning tools.

Fidelity MyPlan is publicly available

07. Pandora

pandorapandora_tip

Pandora has been around since 2005 and has finally gained popularity. It has a very simple, intuitive interface, which makes it easy to get started. The menu offers direct interaction for rating the song ‘up’ or ‘down’, while also providing advanced options such as “don’t play this song again for a month”. And the help tips, shown at just the right time in the workflow, provide a glimpse into advanced features.

Pandora is publicly available

08. Wave Maker

wavemakerwavemaker_model

Wavemaker is a great example of how a complicated product with many features can be clarified with good interface design. They use a logical page flow from left to right- matching the developer workflow of adding a control to the canvas (LEFT) , physically manipulating it (CENTER), then entering tweaking the details in the properties and style panel (RIGHT).

A Cloud Edition is available

09. SugarSync

sugarsync_grid

sugarsync

Another great product that relies upon standard screen patterns and common controls to create an intuitive efficient experience. Awarded Top 10 User Interfaces of 2008 by Jakob Nielsen. Report available for purchase.

A 45 day trial is available

10. clickshirt

clickshirtclick_hoverclick_click

clickshirt keeps it simple and fun with integrated demos and lively interactions. Event the checkout is rich, hover to see more details about the t-shirt type, click to specify the size and quantity. No gratuitous paging in this application.

clickshirt is publicly available

More Good RIAs

These products have good examples of rich usable components, although they may not have met the 10 basic principles for usability throughout the whole application.

NetVibes

netvibes1

Trulia Snapshot

truiasnapshot1

37signals products like Highrise

highrise

Wesabe

wesabe

Keep an Eye on These

iWork.com Publishing Tool

iworkcom-comments

Atlas

atlas

Bespin

bespin

OtherInbox

otherinbox

Comment with your favorite RIA

I realize I have only skimmed the surface here, please comment with a link to the best RIA you use.

Thanks to Rob Jones and Greg Leppert for helping me pull together this list.

Since our book focuses on rich interactions, I want to spend some time on Adobe Flex/AIR.

These tips are based on the best Flex resources I have found, and how you can use them to craft a great user experience. This is part 2 of 6:

  • Play With It: 10 Explorers & Galleries
  • Learn From the Best: 10 Great Flex Apps
  • Learn From the Rest: 10 Great RIAs
  • Stock Your Toolbox: The Essential Controls
  • Review Best Practices for Designing a RIA
  • Avoid Common Mistakes: 10 Anti-Patterns

Learn from the Best: 10 Great Flex Apps

Take a look at some of the best Flex applications on the market. How did I decide these are the best? I reviewed numerous applications, basing the evaluations on Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Principles for User Interface Design:

Feedback — Metaphor — Navigation — Consistency — Prevention — Recognition — Efficiency — Design — Recovery — Help

I realize these guidelines are a bit old (from 1990!)- but all applications should meet these guidelines at a minimum. The applications listed below also embody our 6 Principles for Rich Interaction:

Make it Direct — Keep it Lightweight — Stay on the Page — Provide an Invitation — Use Transitions — React Immediately

01. Picnik

picnik
Free version available

02. Balsamiq

balsamiq
Trial version available

03. Sprout Builder

sproutbuilder
Demo version available.

04. Campaign Monitor by eyeblaster

campaignmonitor
Commercial application- no demo available. Awarded Top 10 User Interfaces of 2008 by Jakob Nielsen. Report available for purchase.

05. ConceptShare

conceptshare
Free account available.

06. Weight Watchers eTools

weight_watchers
Commercial application- no demo available.

07. Small Worlds

smallworlds
Free account available

08. Buzzword

adobebuzzword
Free account available

09. Whitestone Cheese

whitestone
Publicly available at www.whitestonecheese.co.nz

10. Kuler

kuler
Publicly available at kuler.adobe.com

11. SumoPaint

sumopaint-screen
Free account available

Close Contenders

These apps were really close, but missed a couple of key principles, or are still maturing.

Klok

klok_fullscreenklok_time_entries
Free personal download available

Nice time tracking product in AIR- nailed the metaphor, but haven’t Made it Direct enough (yet). I instinctively want to click in my calendar to start logging my time against a certain project. Instead I have to navigate to Project View, then into Time Entries. And spinners for entering start and stop times are inefficient.

I must say I love the Weekly Time Sheet though, and the fact I can drag it to my desktop! I think this product will mature very nicely.

Tour Tracker

tour_tracker_fullscreen
tourtracker_allcaps
Up for a limited time at Amgen Tour of California.

Looks amazing. The metaphor is perfect- big map showing the course and stages- but lost points on some basic principles. Specifically Feedback- I click and click to “watch a rider” on the home page, nothing happens, so I keep clicking. And Design- a black background might demo well, but white and blue tex, all caps, sure is hard on the eyes.

Google Finance Dashboard

googlefinance
Publicly available at BrightPoint Consulting

This is a really nice dashboard showing what can be done with Flex & Degrafa. I can’t wait to see how they finish it out. Also check out Tom Gonzale’s blog for more amazing data visualizations with Flex and Degrafa.

htmlText Editor 2008

htmltexteditor1
Publicly available at www.theflexguy.com

This is a neat little one screen application that absolutely Stays in the Page and Makes it Direct. However, the Filter Tags feature is non-standard in more than one way: “If you remove tags and see that they really were needed, you can just uncheck the box and press Filter tags again.” I know the space is limited but Undo and Redo buttons would make more sense.

Agile Agenda

agileagendaagile_agenda_clicks
Free trial download available

Project management tool in AIR. Missed the Keep it Direct, and Stay in the Page principles. Too many dialogs where simple inline editing would have sufficed. Need better icons, or text with the icons. Usability aside, the product’s functionality seems to be quite robust and well worth the price.

Comment with your favorite Flex applications

I realize I have only skimmed the surface here, please comment with a link to the best Flex UIs you know of.

Since our new book focuses on rich interactions, I wanted to spend some time on Adobe Flex/AIR.

After designing several large enterprise applications for diverse clients and industries, I’ve noticed some barriers to crafting a great experience in Flex. I think these barriers arise from the relative newness of the technology (and RIAs in general), the initial focus on development over design, and the confidence that Flex can provide a great UX out of the box. But it takes a bit more to make a Flex app really shine. Fortunately, the Flex community is chock full of talented and motivated developers who contribute amazing resources.

These tips are based on the best Flex resources I have found, and how you can use them to craft a great Flex UX. This is part 1 of 6:

  • Play With It: 10 Flex Explorers
  • Learn From the Best: 10 Great Flex Apps
  • Learn From the Rest: 10 Great RIAs
  • Stock Your Toolbox: The Essential Controls
  • Review Best Practices for Designing a RIA
  • Avoid Common Mistakes: 10 Anti-Patterns

Play With It: 10 Flex Explorers

I can’t think of a better way to get your feet wet than to play with these explorers.

01. Tour de Flex

tourdeflex

02. Component Explorer

flexcomponentexplorer

03. Style Explorer

flexstyleexplorer

04. Regular Expression Explorer

regularexpressionexplorer
By Ryan Swanson

05. Charts Explorer

chartexplorer
By Ely Greenfield

06. Efflex Effects Explorer

effectsexplorer
By Stephen Downs

07. Filter Explorer

filterexplorer

08. Primitive Objects Explorer

primitiveexplorer

09. Data Visualization Explorer

quvisexplorer

10. Button Skin Explorer

buttonskinexplorer

Comment with your favorite Flex explorer

I realize I have only skimmed the surface here, please comment with a link to your favorite explorer or gallery for Flex 3.

30 Essential Controls

February 4, 2009 — 28 Comments

This is the second article in a three part series on patterns and principles for RIA design.

      Standard Screen Patterns: 12 patterns w/100 examples
      Essential Controls: 30 controls for RIA design and development
      Components for Commonly Requested Features: 15 patterns and examples

Every designer has a set of controls they rely on to communicate an effective UI. This is my library of essential controls.

30_essential_controls

Unfortunately, no single RIA framework offers all 30 of these. So I included a checklist of which frameworks provide each control. If you have an addition or correction, please e-mail me, and I will post an updated framework/control matrix.

ria_frameworks

The frameworks reviewed include: Flex, Laszlo, Silverlight and 12 Ajax frameworks and toolkits: ExtJS, Dojo, YUI, Google Web Toolkit, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, SproutCore, LivePipeUI,IT Mill, Backbase.

01. Auto Suggest

auto_recomend

Google’s Auto-Complete

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, YUI, Google Web Toolkit, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, IT Mill, Backbase, Silverlight.

02. Carousel (variation as Coverflow)

carousel_ex

Carousel Prototype carousel widget

Supported by: YUI, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, ITMill, Backbase, iCarousel

coverflow_ex1

Coverflow MediaEvent Service’s Slideflow

Supported by: Flex, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, RadControls for Silverlight

03. Charts & Graphs

graphchart_wesabe

Charts Advanced charting features like hover details, drill down, rolling windows, toggle views…

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, Dojo, YUI, Google Web Toolkit, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery (SWF/Chart), MooTools, MochaUI, Backbase, SilverLight, AnyChart, Dundas, JPowered, JFreeChart, OpenFlashCharts, Flot, Plotr, PlotKit, WebFX, AjaxMcGraph, Measure Map.

04. Collapsible Panels (accordion, disclosure triangles, slide drawer)

collapsible_accordion

Accordion Mutually exclusive collapsible panels showing status

disclosure_arrows_mint

Disclosure arrows Mint.com uses disclosure arrows for summarizing and displaying accounts

collapsible_sliding_fluxiom

Sliding panel Fluxiom uses a sliding panel instead of a dialog to show the selected photo’s details

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs (called panels), Dojo, Google Web Toolkit (disclosure panel), Prototype/script.aculo.us (accordion), JQuery, MooTools (accordion), MochaUI (split pane), SproutCore (split pane), IT Mill, Backbase (accordion), RadControls for Silverlight (PanelBar and Sliding Panel).

05. Combobox (select multiple, alternate list box UI, editable)

combobox_multiselect_livepipe1

Select multiple LivePipe UI’s control takes less space and is easier to scan than an ocean of checkboxes

combobox_multiselect_ex1

Alternate listbox UI Best alternative for multi select in small spaces, clearly displays all selections, and provides an easy way to edit

Supported by: Alternate Listbox UI, LivePipeUI

combobox_editable1

Editable combobox Editable combobox allows for lookup and/or text entry

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools (MUI.ComboBox), IT Mill, Backbase, RadControls for Silverlight.

06. Date Picker/Calendar (select range, date/time combination)

datepicker_jquery

Advanced calendar Select a range, discontinuous dates, or exclude a certain day

date_time_picker_ex3

Date/time picker Select a date and time in a single control

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJS, Dojo, YUI, JQuery, Scal built on Prototype, MooTools, MochUI, IT Mill, Backbase, Silverlight, dhtmlxCalendar, keyboard accessible calendar, more examples on Woork

07. Dialogs (modal, light weight, lightbox)

dialog_modal1

Modal dialog Mint offers a modal for adding an account

dialog_modeless

Modeless dialog Google Maps provides a modeless dialog for getting directions

dialog_lightbox_jquery

Lightbox JQuery provides a lightbox plugin, a modal dialog that blacks out the parent screen

Supported by: Flex(modal), Laszlo (modal and modeless), ExtJs (modal), Dojo (modal and lightbox), YUI( listed under Containers: Modal and Overlay), Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery (modal, modeless, lightbox) , SproutCore (has a really nice example of each under ‘panes’), MooTools, MochaUI, LivePipe UI, IT Mill, Backbase (modal and modeless window), Silverlight (modal and lightbox).

08. Docking

ria_frameworks

Dockable menu Campaign Manager by eyeblaster offers a pinned/unpinned menu for navigating between campaigns

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, YUI, Google Web Toolkit, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, LivePipe UI, Backbase, Silverlight.

09. Drag & Drop Manager

drag_drop_extjsdrag_drop_extjs_drop

Drag and drop ExtJS photo organizer demo

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, YUI, Google Web Toolkit, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, LivePipe UI, Backbase, Silverlight.

10. Dynamic Filter

dynamic_filter_flex

Dynamic table filtering Flex offers a filter feature that dynamically filters the results while the user types, demo

dynamic_filter_rico
Dynamic column filtering Dynamic filtering can be implemented at the column level providing advanced filtering capabilities
Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, YUI, JQuery, IT Mill, Backbase, Silverlight, Open Rico

11. Feedback/ Status

ria_frameworks

Feedback Gmail status message

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, YUI, Google Web Toolkit, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, LivePipe UI, IT Mill, Backbase, Silverlight

12. Fisheye/ Spotlight

fisheye_alpslab

Fisheye Apslab Fish-eye Lense

Apply this concept to a dense chart or map for a truly useful feature.

Supported by: Flex, ExtJs (spotlight), Dojo , Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, Silverlight

13. Gauges (and other visual progress or status indicators)

gauge_citibank
ria_frameworks

Gauge Thermometer gauge in RadControls for Silverlight

Gauges provide a concise visual summary in heads-up-display or other goal directed designs

Supported by: Flex (various plug-ins and Flex Charting), ExtJs (combined with GWT), Dojo, Google Web Toolkit, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery (SWF/Gauge), MooTools, MochaUI, Silverlight, AnyChart, Dundas

14. Help Tip/ Quick Tip

help_tip1

Quick Tip Picnik engages new users with some helpful advice

More than just a tooltip, these are fully formatted messages typically presented in a modeless dialog.

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, YUI (use overlay container), Google Web Toolkit (use popup panel), Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, LivePipe UI (use window control), IT Mill, Backbase, Silverlight

15. Hot Keys

ria_frameworks

Hot keys Balsamiq Mockups has hot keys for frequent actions

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, Mochui, LivePipe UI, IT Mill, Backbase, Silverlight

16. Hover Action

ria_frameworks

Hover action Instead of cluttering the screen with redundant actions, Basecamp reveals the edit and delete actions onHover

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, YUI, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, Backbase, Silverlight, good post by Bill on hover actions and missed moments

17. Hover Detail

ria_frameworks

Hover detail Netflix hover details

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, YUI (overlay), Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools (smart hover box), IT Mill, Silverlight

18. Inline Edit

inline_edit_flickr

Inline edit Instead of showing form fields in pages that are usually read (not edited), Flickr provides inline editing

Supported by: Flex (only in the grid), Laszlo (only in the grid), ExtJs, Dojo, YUI, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, IT Mill, Backbase (only in the grid), Silverlight (only in the grid)

19. Progress Indicator/ Loading

loading_picnik

Progress indicator Picnik loading indicator

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, YUI, Google Web Toolkit, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, LivePipe UI, IT Mill, Backbase, Silverlight

20. Rating

rating_graffletopia

Star rating Graffletopia offers one-click star ratings for shared stencils

Supported by: ExtJs extension, Dojo widget, Starbox for Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools , MochaUI

21. Record Locator/ Paginator

record_locator_lls

Record locator Like the control in PDF Viewer, the record locator lets you navigate through records in a dataset or skip to a specific record by name

paginator_yahoo

Paginator Typically used for paging through tables, screens, or other result sets

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, YUI, Google Web Toolkit, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, LivePipe UI, Backbase, Silverlight

22. Slider

slider_innography

Slider Innography provides sliders in their quick filter for refining results displayed on a chart

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, IT Mill, Backbase, RadControls for Silverlight

23. Scoped Search

scoped_search_vimeo

Scoped search Like iTunes, allows for the optional selection of a category before entering free form search text, example from Vimeo’s help page

Supported by: custom css and js code, example at Janko at warp speed, RadControls for Silverlight

24. Sparklines

sparklines_retailmenot_goodcouponsparklines_google_analytics

Sparklines Great way to show the “shape” or trend of data is a small space, examples from RetailMeNot.com and Google Analytics. Created by Edward Tufte.

Supported by: Nuby on Rails, Any Chart, JQuery plugin, Flex , and two more ones for Flex at Microcharts and Birdeye, Google API, Visifire for Silverlight

25. Table/ Data Grid ( scrolling, editable, grouped)

table_scrolling_extjs1

Scrolling table Endless scrolling, no paging, just like a desktop app, example from ExtJS

table_cell_editing_blist1

Editable table Blist offers inline cell editing in their products. Best practice, highlight the selected row, and only display an editor in the selected cell. Don’t forget to accomodate keyboard navigation.

table_grouping1

Tree table Grouping by row, displays as a tree table, example from ExtJS

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, YUI, Backbase, Silverlight

26. Toolbar

toolbar_sugarsynctoolbar_flickr1

Toolbar Provide actions in proximity to the object, examples from SugarSync and Flickr

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, Dojo, YUI, Google Web Toolkit, Prototype/script.aculo.us, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, Backbase, RadControls for Silverlight

27. Vertical Browser

vertical_browser_apple

Vertical browser Apple’s vertical browser for exploring Dashboard widgets

Supported by: custom code of multiple list boxes

28. View Toggle (buttons, button bar)

view_toggle2

Toggle buttons Separate buttons for switching between graph and grid views Campaign Manager by eyeblaster

view_toggle_paypal

Toggle button bar Single button bar for capturing binary choices

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, Dojo, YUI, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, Backbase, Silverlight

29. WYSIWYG Editor/ Rich Text Editor

wysiwyg_wordpress

Rich text editor WordPress offers a a WYSIWYG editor for blogging

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, Dojo, YUI, Google Web Toolkit, JQuery, MooTools, MochaUI, IT Mill, Backbase, Silverlight

30. Zoom

zoom_jqzoom

Zoom Zoom in on a certain spot, example from jQZoom

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs (spotlight), Prototype/script.aculo.us (zOOm), JQuery, MooTools (Joomla), MochaUI, Silverlight (silverZoom)

Bonus- Desktop Style Container

desktop_container_otherinbox

Desktop style app OtherInbox built with SproutCore

A desktop style container isn’t actually a control, but frequently required when developing enterprise software and productivity web applications. Many of the frameworks that offer this feature include built in windows management, split panels, and fluid layout.

Supported by: Flex, Laszlo, ExtJs, YUI, JQuery, MochaUI, Backbase, SproutCore, Silverlight

Send me any corrections and/or additions, and I will upload an updated control/framework matrix.

Thanks to Joonas Lehtinen of IT Mill, Ryan Johnson of LivePipe, and Peter Svensson who is a Dojo expert, and Darren James, co-author of Ajax in Action.

Update* Cody Lindley at jQuery provided a

Updated in 2010: 15 Standard Screen Patterns with examples from 80+ current web applications.

To celebrate the release of our new O’Reilly book, “Designing Web Interfaces: Principles and Patterns for Rich Interactions”, I want to share an additional set of principles and patterns I have been using for RIA design. While the book takes a much more consumer web site orientation, these concepts are central to enterprise application and web productivity application design and more broad than those discussed in the book.

This is the first article in a three part series.

      Standard Screen Patterns: 12 patterns w/100 examples
      Essential Controls: 30 controls for RIA design and development
      Components for Commonly Requested Features: 15 patterns and examples

standard_screen_patterns

With more companies turning to RIA frameworks for enterprise software development, these screen patterns are indispensable for product managers, UX designers, information architects, interaction designers and developers. The patterns rely heavily upon desktop design principles, subtly blended with many of the better RIA components and principles. I’ve included 100 examples to illustrate these patterns, pulled from desktop, Flex/AIR, Ajax, Laszlo, and Silverlight applications.

01. Master/Detail

Master/Detail screen pattern can be vertical or horizontal. Ideal for creating an efficient user experience by allowing the user to stay in the same screen while navigating between items. Horizontal layout is a good choice when the user needs to see more information in the master list than just a few identifiers- or when the master view is comprised of a set of items that each have additional details. Click on thumbnail for larger image OR download the PDF.

02. Column Browse

The Browse screen pattern can be vertical or horizontal. Ideal for creating an custom user experience by allowing the user to start from various entry points for navigating to the item(s) they are interested in.

03. Search/ Results

The Search screen pattern can range from very simple to quite advanced. Ideal for creating an efficient user experience by allowing the user to navigate directly to an item or set of items meeting specific criteria.

04. Filter Dataset

The Filter Dataset screen pattern can be vertical or horizontal. Ideal for creating an efficient user experience by allowing the user to refine a set of known data, or further refine search results.

05. Forms

All Form screens should be approached with a solid understanding of usability and design best practices. Refer to “Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks” by Luke Wroblewski for reference.

06. Palette/ Canvas

The Palette/ Canvas screen pattern is seldom the right pattern to apply, but it is the only pattern for documenting or creating: linear or non-liner processes; flow diagrams; screen layouts; design/diagram with physical size or layout constraints.

07. Dashboard

A well designed Dashboard will provide: key information at a glance, real time data, easy to read graphics, clear entry points for exploration This is typically not achieved by displaying a single screen of metrics (either in a big table, or just a bunch of graphs). Providing a high degree of customization is no substitute for user research and testing. Stephen Few has a nice book on this topic Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data .

08. Spreadsheet

The Spreadsheet screen pattern is ideal for creating an efficient user experience by allowing the user to easily scan, edit and enter information (in bulk). The Spreadsheet should provide the following functionality: standard table features like sort, hide/show columns, rearrange columns, group by (if applicable), global level undo/redo, add/insert/delete row, keyboard navigation, import and export.

09. Wizard

The Wizard/Quick Start screen pattern is ideal for creating an efficient user experience by guiding the user through a complex or infrequent workflow.

10. Question & Answer

The Q&A screen pattern is ideal for creating an efficient user experience by allowing the user to enter known information and receive a solution. Q & A differs from Search in that this pattern should be used to assist users in identifying possible options or a single recommendation in an arena they are lacking expertise (health insurance, mortgages, planning, purchases).

11. Parallel Panels

The Parallel Panels screen pattern can be stacked (showing one at a time) or unstacked (showing all at once). This pattern is ideal for organizing chunks of information that are similar or have interdependent tendencies. Efficiency is gained by keeping the user in one screen. Ideal candidates for the stacked variation of this pattern are simple work-flows with: a high level, visible goal that is fed by multiple inputs, multiple non-sequential steps. This combines a number of the web site patterns outlined in “Designing Interfaces” by Jennifer Tidwell for a single pattern for chunking and displaying data.

pp_ex4

12. Interactive Model

The Interactive Model screen pattern is characterized by many interactive elements associated with the key object (a calendar, map, graph, chart, canvas). It is ideal for creating a user experience that is closely aligned with the user’s mental model (a natural fit). Excellent candidates for this pattern are: calendars, maps, gantt charts, what-if scenarios (including calculators), WYSIWYG editors (including photo editing).

Bonus. Blank Slate

This is the natural state of the application, before any data has been entered or accessed. The book, “Getting Real” by 37signals”explains that a blank slate screen is an excellent place to set users expectations. By giving them a preview this can lower anxiety and reduce frustration and confusion. Items to include in a blank state screen include: videos, quick tutorials, help tips, a screenshot of what a fully loaded screen will look like.

Missing Patterns?

Noticeably absent are two patterns that are grossly overused and misused in enterprise software- portals and tabs.

  1. Portals- If your market research, business requirements and user feedback lead you to design a portal, follow the same design principles and best practices as the Dashboard pattern.
  2. Tabs- Tabs are a component, and ultimately not a screen pattern. They are to alternate between views of data in the same context. If the data structure is leading you to a tab heavy UI design, I have two suggestions. First, reconsider the IA. Use card sorting and/or hire a professional Information Architect to help you for a few days. Second, follow the same design principles and best practices as the Parallel Panels pattern.

You can download a PDF of this post which includes full descriptions of each pattern, as well as best practices.


References

If you are looking for web site design patterns, here are a number of excellent books:

Flex 3 OmniGraffle Stencil

December 4, 2008 — 2 Comments

Just in case you need to whip up wire frames for Flex apps before Adobe’s Flash Catalyst) hits the market- here is my Flex 3 Stencil for OmniGraffle, posted at Graffletopia. I have used it for a couple of projects where I would rather be focusing my energy on brainstorming a good UI than nudging things around in Flex Builder.

OmniGraffle Flex 3 Stencil

OmniGraffle Flex 3 Stencil

Keep an eye out fro my next post. I am celebrating building my 20th major RIA with a list of 20 Essential UI components for RIA design, lots of Ajax and Flex examples. These aren’t the usual suspects either…