Choices in UI: A Goofus and Gallant Example

When I was a small child, my mother volunteered at a used bookstore. There she would buy me reams upon reams of back issues of Highlights. Every issue of the children’s magazine contained at least one strip of Goofus and Gallant, a comic designed to show young children the right and the wrong way to behave in various situations. Here are three examples of the Goofus and Gallant comics.

The definition of “good manners” is a little bit subjective, of course. Likewise, definitions of “good UX design” vary by the situation and by subjective opinion. That said, most would agree that the example set by Gallant embodies “good manners” better than the example set by Goofus. Similarly, today we’ll look at two different apps—the Uber app for passengers and the Wodify app for Crossfit athletes—and examine the choices that users are expected to make as they use those apps. Collectively, these choices make one of the apps decidedly easier to use than the other. As we explore the choices made by the UX designers of these two apps, we’ll see examples of how to make those same choices for your apps.

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“UI Design for Programmers” by Joel Spolsky

*In addition to design, this post talks about broadening the skill set of the agile developer. It also talks about learning in general.

I work as a developer; this involves writing code.

But coding is not the whole story. Say we’re adding a new screen to an app—someone has to design it. The product owner doesn’t know what kind of interaction to use for a task—someone has to brainstorm, ask questions of a few end users, and write stories to capture the upcoming work. We need to put a warning dialog on the screen under some condition—someone has to write the dialog copy. At Labs, we don’t have specialists floating around to perform these tasks: either someone is billing on a project, or they’re not. And if there isn’t a designer or a product manager billing on the project, then the aforementioned design and product decisions fall to the consultants who are on the project: developers.

In such a situation, it makes sense for developers to learn something about the other disciplines involved in building a piece of software. Learning those disciplines can also be fun and interesting. I’ve decided to delve into them a bit, starting with UI design. I chose Joel Spolsky’s UI Design for Programmers as my introduction to the subject.

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