Friday, June 11, 2010

Taking Input - Program/UI

I went to pay the electricity bill at BDA. The machine refused to read the bar code on the bill, so I choose the manual method. I had to fill about seven or eight fields. I couldn't find three of them on the bill and gave up. I am sure the bar code doesn't encodes all of inputs, but possibly some unique number which can find out all the eight fields that the machine wanted me to enter. If electricity department could print the number represented by bar code in decimal digits on the bill itself, I could have easily paid my bills and had to just enter one number.

Passport form is another example of the same problem. You need to write your address at least 4 times at various places. Simple website would go a long way.

Any website which wants to know your country will invariably show you a dropdown  with more than 200 entries. Auto complete would be so much nice to use.

Car is a great example of good user interface. Steering is large enough to control turn, only five gears, not two and not twenty, just right, clutch, brake and accelerator. Minimal and complete. It takes couple of weeks to get used to it, but after that it works well. The feedback is immediate and speed/fuel/rpm monitoring is right in front. The big horn to shout is right on the steering, along with indicators. Each of the controls are of a certain size and at a certain distance from the driver and I bet that is the metric of importance/frequency of use of the control.

I wish someone writes a UI framework which can use user feedback (not another form but by logging what user does with the UI) to make it easier for the user to use the UI.  It could hide the features which are not used, keep a cache of recently used features, increase/decrease size of the buttons (clickable, touchable area) to make it easy to click or may be allow user to create a shortcut. Microsoft Office does some of these things and I guess others can do it too and probably do a much better job of it. 

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