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An Eye-Opening Talk on UI Design

Posted by marinasum on June 4, 2009 at 9:28 AM PDT

I much enjoyed listening to Ben Galbraith of Mozilla expound on user-interface design at JavaOne yesterday afternoon. Not only is the title, Creating Compelling User Interfaces, eye-catching, the content is well supported by quotations from experts.

The Importance of UI
Galbraith started the talk with a nod to Google: "Its front page has only a simple interface [for search] and we tend to forget about the complexity underneath."

Appealing UI attracts users irrespective of the underlying code. "If you have terrible code but users like your software, that's a good scenario. The opposite isn't true, however," Galbraith said, citing examples of "highly pragmatic" yet wildly successful Facebook and MySpace, thanks to their stellar UI.

"Creating UI takes a ton of time-intensive work. It involves craftsmanship, that is, devotion to getting things right in creative acts," Galbraith continued. A case in point is the Firefox browser icon, which took the design engineer countless hours to refine.

UI advocate Alan Cooper strongly believes that craftsmanship is measured by quality, not by speed. "Best of market trumps first to market," he once said. Separately, even though some folks believe that internal applications don't merit as much attention as external ones, Galbraith disagreed because the former definitely affect employee effectiveness.

Relationship With User Expectations
"UI has to do with expectations

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