Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Presentation

This year, for the A to Z Blogging Challenge I'm posting alphabetically on topics related to software development...

Free Stock Images: Lipstick 4 Picture. Image: 53209
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Sorry to appear so shallow and superficial, but, ya know, presentation matters!

You can go a long way by paying attention to little things, like sticking to a consistent presentation style - fonts, colors, spatial layout, lining up labels and edges of fields (up to a point, you can actually get too pedantic about making things line up that really shouldn't).

If you think that's just unimportant nit-picking, think about this. Give users two applications, one with a clean and professional interface, and one that looks like it's been thrown together by a five-year-old, and guess which one they'll prefer? More importantly, see how they talk about it. One will be blamed for everything that goes wrong, and will be seen as less reliable and more error prone - even if the two applications are actually identical under the covers.

It's just as easy to do it right as to make a mess of it, but doing it right (as with most things) takes a bit of thought up front.

OK, so presentation matters, but that doesn't give you license to go overboard. Flashy graphics might lighten things up and enhance the user experience, but they can also go horribly wrong.

No user is going to forgive you if your over-eager presentation style slows them down. If the system is slow to respond, it had better not be because it's taking time to load your irrelevant images or paint that pie chart in 3-D with digitally-rendered pie crust. If it is, I suggest you pack your bags and leave town before anyone notices.

And don't - ever - let needless presentation gimmicks actually intrude on your user's work, and especially don't force them into unnecessary clicking or typing.

Remember Clippy, the never-lamented MS Office assistant? Enough said.


  1. I love your advice. I hate when I go to a site and it takes so long to load because of flashy graphics.

  2. And don't use animated gifs in your presentations. They're not cute, they're annoying as hell.

  3. Susan, as I'm writing about business applications rather than websites in general I didn't even go to my BIG pet peeve - having to wait just because they want to ram adverts in front of my eyes!

    Diane, that's so true, too!

  4. This completely applies to the touch screen interfaces on machines too. You should see some of the craziness that I've found on screens before.


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