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((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) August 6, 2001


This newsletter is sponsored by: Rational Software 802.11-Planet.com FlashKit.com


This week we review "User Interface Design for Programmers," a book that shows programmers how to design UIs for apps and the Web. Peter sums up the known problems with his HierMenus, Michael tweaks his tiny XML Java parser and the Doc starts a series on print template control with JavaScript and IE5.5+.

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New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. XML: Xparse-J Update 1.1 2. DHTML: Platform Problems and Hiermenus 3. JAVASCRIPT: Print Templates, Part I 4. BOOK REVIEW: User Interface Design for Programmers 5. CONTEST: Submit & Win Swift 3D! 6. OTHER VOICES: * First Rule of Usability? Don't Listen to Users * Interview with Richard Stallmann 7. NET NEWS: * Netscape 6.1 Is Out * The Search Engines' Little Secret

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. EXPLORING XML: Xparse-J Update 1.1

If you prefer a lean codebase over extra bells and whistles, our Xparse-J may be just the lightweight XML Java parser you've been looking for. And, as author Michael Classen explains, this latest update allows it to be used in a wider variety of XML projects.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. DHTML LAB: Platform Problems and Hiermenus

Having problems with Hiermenus in the Pro Aardvark browser v3.024f? Our new Known Issues page tracks various browser/platform related concerns and details their impact on the Hiermenus script. By Peter Belesis.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. JAVASCRIPT: Print Templates, Part I

First introduced with Internet Explorer 5.5, print templates allow you to control the look of your Web site's pages when printed. We begin our in-depth examination by showing you how to create both static print templates, and dynamic templates using JavaScript. By Yehuda Shiran and Tomer Shiran.


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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 4. BOOK REVIEW: User Interface Design for Programmers

Most programmers hate user interface programming. They think UI design is in the realm of groovy graphic designers. But UI design is not art, it's just a set of rules. Joel Spolsky's cardinal axiom of all user interface design is to match your program model to the user model. In other words, your program should behave exactly as the user expects. If you can do that, and apply the other corollaries he provides, your program will be usable.

In this 144 page color illustrated book, Spolsky shows you plenty of examples of what works, and what doesn't. You'll learn UI design rules you can apply to improve any user interface, from traditional GUI applications to Web sites to consumer electronics. Spolsky *sounds* like a programmer too, boiling things down to their essence with wonderful wit.

Even if you have the best algorithms in the world, if users can't figure out how to use your program, it's practically useless. Giving users what they expect makes learning your program that much easier. But how do you find out what the user model is? Ask them. The book flows from this perspective. Here's a summary.

1. Controlling Your Environment Makes You Happy (see above) 2. Figuring Out What They Expected Finding out the user model by asking them. If your program model is nontrivial, it's probably not the same as the user model. Users will assume the simplest model possible. 3. Choices Every time you provide an option, you're asking the user to make a decision. It's the designers' responsibility to make choices for users so that they don't have to. 4. Affordances and Metaphors When the user model is incomplete or wrong, the program can use affordances or metaphors to show the users its model. Tabbed dialogs are a great affordance. It's obvious which tab you're on. 5. Broken Metaphors When you use metaphors, try to make them behave in predictable ways like objects in the real world. Violating reality is just confusing. 6. Consistency and Other Hobgoblins Good UI designers use consistency intelligently, and though it may not show off their creativity as well, in the long run it makes users happier. 7. Putting the User in Charge Let people do things in whatever order they like. 8. Design for Extremes... so that your product can be used under extreme conditions, and so that your product is more comfortable to use under normal conditions. a. Design for people who can't read. b. Design for people who can't use a mouse. c. Design for people who have such bad memories they would forget their own name if it weren't embossed on the American Express. 9. People Can't Read Users don't read the manual. Users don't read anything. 10. People Can't Control the Mouse Users can't control the mouse very well. 11. People Can't Remember Design for dolts, you'll have a lot more customers. 12. The Process of Designing a Product Use activity-based planning for design, rather than program features. Evaluate which features support the most important user activities. Invent Imaginary Users before you design your UI. Watch Out for Unintended Consequences (Apple's expanding trash can). 13. Those Pesky Usability Tests You Don't Need to Test with a Lot of Users (5) You can never accurately measure the usability of a software product. 14. Relativity: Understanding UI Time Warps To fight boredom, create the illusion of low latency. Good UI designers use three tricks to do this: 1. Always respond immediately to the user's request (alink) 2. Find creative ways to break up long operations 3. When all else fails, bunch together all the slow operations 15. "But...How Do It Know?" A good heuristic is obvious, easily undone, and extremely likely to be correct. Other heuristics are annoying. 16. Tricks of the Trade Know how to use color Design in black and white. Add color for emphasis, when your design is complete. Know How to Use Icons Know the Rules of Internationalization 17. Designing for the Web On the Web, every click results in a round trip to the server, which reduces usability. Design to minimize round- trips. The fewer cool Web features you use, the more usable your site will be. 18. Programming for Humans

This is a great book written by an experienced software industry veteran. Recommended.

User Interface Design for Programmers By Joel Spolsky Apress, $29.95 ISBN: 1893115941

http://www.apress.com/ http://www.joelonsoftware.com/ (about 1/2 the book is online here)

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 5. CONTEST: Submit & Win Swift 3D!

Submit an article for publication on WebReference or within our text newsletters, and you could win your choice of Swift 3D tools!

http://webref.com/new/submit.html *- Submit article http://webref.com/new/swift3d.html *- Swift 3D details

And congratulations to our recent winners: Dries Samyn for "Creating DHTML Applications," Dan Ball for "Email Forms in PHP" and Marcia Yudkin for "Six Steps to Internet Age Free Publicity."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 6. OTHER VOICES: First Rule of Usability? Don't Listen to Users, Interview with Richard Stallmann

>First Rule of Usability? Don't Listen to Users

To design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20010805.html Useit.com, Aug. 5, 2001

>Interview with Richard Stallmann http://juraj.bednar.sk/work/prace/computer/freesoft/stallman.php

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 7. NET NEWS: Netscape 6.1 Is Out, The Search Engines' Little Secret

>Netscape 6.1 Is Out

Netscape has made Netscape 6.1, its Mozilla-based browser, available for download. http://linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2001-08-06-004-20-NW-SW Linux Today, Aug. 6, 2001

>The Search Engines' Little Secret

Many serve up paid ads among their top-listed reference results. A little honesty would benefit surfers and advertisers alike http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/aug2001/nf2001086_115.htm Business Week, Aug. 6, 2001

That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Newsletter Editor, WebReference.com aking@webreference.com

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