Fifteen years ago, a person I'd met wound up landing a job with Microsoft; he was incredibly well versed in DirectX, and was part of the team at Bungee that wrote Halo, one of the best selling and most popular videogames to date.

I saw him give a talk on "why was Halo so popular?", and the question was "any secrets for UI design?" His answer was very simple: "Dip it in floor wax. Make it shiny. Make it so pretty, people walking by want to *watch* it being played. But mostly, just dip it in floor wax." I talked to him afterwards, and fleshing out the theme, their strategy was a two step approach:

  • First, make the controls and physics model as intuitive as possible. Users shouldn't feel they have to learn the system, as much as just pick it up as they go.
  • Second, layer on the best eyecandy you can find, so that users *want* to keep looking at it, and bystanders give it a look as well.
I've argued that after basic, basic stability of the system, user experience is the most important place to put your money. For internal apps, it makes the users happy; the system is easier to use. For external-facing apps, it's even more crucial. It still makes the users happy, because the system is easier to use. It also makes sales happier, because the system should be far easier to sell, and it makes operations happier, because fewer users are getting confused with the same UI quirks, and fewer angry users are calling in (or refusing to use parts of the system!)

Some organizations have full-time user experience teams, responsible for tasks from creating overarching guidelines to guide development to doing low-level development of the UI on projects. At our organization, I haven't seen this, but I have seen contracting out UI and UX to a design firm, and then insourcing the development behind it. But some projects don't do either, and that's where I think we can realize the biggest gains for development, clients, sales, and operations.

Here's a large list of UI Style Guides for 50ish organizations: http://www.theuxbookmark.com/2010/08/interaction-design/a-monster-list-of-ui-guidelines-style-guides

In the list, it's kind of interesting to compare Apple's iPhone App Style Guide vs the Android User Interface Guidelines. The MITRE Group published 700+ rules in six categories on the topic... in 1986, and while technology has advanced (the WWW!), this seems incredibly useful for mainframe and other text-drive applications. For "best Federal site", NASA has their act together. As far as "best informational site", read the Philosophy page on BBC GEL.

Any other great UI/UX links out there?

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