Task-based UI Design
Developing new products is great for trying new things. There is no legacy and lots of freedoms. One of our areas that is screaming for experimentation is the UI. UI models have been changing in recent years. Many products are taking more of a Web-look. If you start digging into the design reasons, you'll run across discussions of Task-based UI or Inductive UI. It's not hard to find examples, especially from Microsoft: Windows XP uses Task Panes and Web-isms in many parts of the Shell; Office XP also makes heavy use of Task Panes; Applications like Quicken and Money have very Web-like UI's.
According to Microsoft, Task-based UI's are suppose to address the following problems:
- Users don't seem to construct an adequate mental model of the product.
- Even many long-time users never master common procedures.
- Users must work hard to figure out each feature or screen.
Obviously, slapping some Task Panes in your application doesn't magically make it easier to use. This method is focused on the User Experience, but I would go further and say it's User Assistance. As such, we are involving our Documentation team in establishing the design and guidelines for use in the application. In addition, this method also seems to play well with the teachings of Cooper and Raskin. We are looking forward to see the effects on overall usability.