October 02, 2007

Pleasure in the UI

I very much enjoyed the session I attended from the BuzzWord team. It’s an outstandingly good-looking application, and it’s refreshing to hear a design and development team talk explicitly about how making a beautiful interface is one of their goals. I also very much liked their idea of trying to create small moments of pleasure within their interface; they gave four examples:-

  1. In Buzzword’s document sorter screen, when you change the sort order (from, eg. Title to Author), the document names fly around the screen into their new order. It’s immensely visually appealing, but also has the useful effect of conveying something about the underlying model of what’s happening.
  2. Buzzword times out your session if there’s no activity from your client for a while. The dialog box that you see when you return to your PC says “Buzzword fell asleep while you were away” (plus a randomly selected picture of an enormously cute sleeping baby / cat / gorilla), and then “Please click to reactivate”.
  3. Their spell checker dialog box has a checkbox for “Flag mispelled words”. Misspelled is, well, misspelled, with a wavy red underline. This makes everyone who sees it, me included, smile.
  4. The icon for “Document History” is the Venus de Milo.

To me, interface touches like this are the hallmark of a team which really, really cares about their product, and you can see this same attention to detail everywhere within the application and the Buzzword web site. Even their “Visit our support forum” text has this same feel about it:-

Our mice are poised over the Refresh key, waiting for your comments. Head on over to our Forum.

- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Chris May

    I think there’s a fine, and audience-specific, line, between appealingly cute personalisations, and annoyingly unprofessional ones. I wonder whether touches like the ones you allude to above might actually deter people from adopting the tool in some environments, where the right impression to give is not “Me and Jeff are waiting for you to call for support” but “Our behemoth support organization is waiting for you to active process #275: Request Assistance”. hmm.

    {wanders off to put “Sry, I lost yr filez” LolCat picture back into 404 page}

    02 Oct 2007, 16:52

  2. John Dale

    Absolutely there is. And in fact every attempt to be cute or appealing in the UI runs the risk of seeming unprofessional. But I think the Buzzword guys did an outstanding job of staying on the right side of that line, and I also think that our environment, where our relationship with our users is not one of vendor/customer, is a good fit for touches of this sort.

    02 Oct 2007, 18:09

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