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.
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?