Aaron Brethorst

Round peg in a square hole, rabid generalist.

Creating Inductive User Interfaces

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Jan Miksovsky, formerly of Microsoft, and presently of Cozi (a stealthy Seattle startup), is a huge believer in the power of task-oriented user interfaces. Five years ago, Jan published Microsoft’s official Inductive User Interface Guidelines on MSDN:

Good Web design means focusing on a single task per page and providing navigation forward and backward through pages. Similarly, inductive navigation starts with focusing the activity on each page to a single, primary task.

You can see the fruit of some of Jan’s ideas in Windows XP and Windows Vista, and most clearly in the Microsoft Money product line. Of course, the approach taken by an inductive UI is not appropriate for every application; you’d never want to create a document in Word using this approach, but for many types of applications IUI can be a valuable tool. What I find especially interesting about Jan’s IUI Guidelines document is that it is an ideal tool for creating easy-to-use “web 2.0” applications.

The Windows Ux Group (actually, I bet it was written by Everett McKay, but that’s another story) published an article entitled Picking the Right Degree of Control for User Interfaces, which does a fantastic job of explaining when you should use an IUI versus other UI styles.

In addition to the IUI Guidelines, there are a number of additional resources you may want to explore for more information:

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