Would You Like Breakfast? User Interface Design Choices for Wireless
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If you are not from the U.S., the number of choices you need to make simply to order breakfast may overwhelm you. Contrast that to my experience staying at a bed and breakfast on a trip to England: I was asked only two questions—both with a choice of “yes” or “no.” Breakfast and Tea. If you are in a foreign country, jet-lagged, hungry and a little parched (thirsty) there is some comfort in being able to simply say “yes” and “yes.”
Having a choice is good but only if you know what you are choosing. If you are in unfamiliar territory, it can be overwhelming to have to choose whether you want Ranch, French or Vinaigrette. Particularly, if you thought that French and Vinaigrette were the same thing. Conversely, it is very disappointing if you want your bacon extra crispy, but you are not given that option.
Challenge of New and Experienced Users
In the world of user interface (UI) design, the challenge is to cater to new users who do not yet understand the choices they can make and at the same time make sure experienced users—who know exactly what they want—have the control they need. For example, the Eclipse DAC GE3 has been a huge challenge to provide a simple and consistent user interface and at the same time provide control over the advanced Ethernet Switch features.
Rolling up groups of settings into default, canned and custom configurations has allowed us to seamlessly provide simple and advanced views. For VLAN configuration, we provide familiar DAC GE “mode of operation” settings for Transparent, Mixed and VLAN (GE and ES compatible) along with a new 1-to-1 mapping of ports to channels. Clicking on them allows you to create and name custom port groupings and selecting Advanced allows full control of the switch behavior.
We also use many diagrams to make it easier to see at a glance how the switch is configured and to help visualize what the settings mean. The VLAN settings are rendered into a small diagram that shows canned, custom or advanced VLAN configuration in a consistent manner.
The challenge of making our user interface universally accessible is ongoing, and we will continue to improve our user interface over time. And I will continue to enjoy my full English breakfast with a hot cup of tea.
Senior Software Engineer, Aviat Networks