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Glossary » b

backward compatibility

designing software to work with previous versions of itself, e.g. by making files in the same format and working with the same equipment. In user interface design, this also means minimizing the learning curve so that existing users can easily…

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Baker’s equation

BBEE; Baker’s basic ergonomic equation; an expression describing the factors driving the success of a particular assistive technology:

Likelihood of success (S) = M/(P+C+L+T)

M = a user’s motivation to complete a task
P = the physical effort…

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balloon help

a help facility in Mac OS that displays a speech balloon over widgets and screen regions when the users pause over them. The speech balloon typically contains a title and a short description.

Similar in some ways to tooltips, except…

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the amount of data that can be transmitted across a network during a given period of time. Variance in bandwidth is also an important measure.

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banner ad

(web) an area set off from the rest of a web page by its position and appearance to advertise, inform, promote, or highlight important information. A banner ad is frequently a graphic displayed as a wide horizontal band that can…

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holding down the button on a pen (barrel button) while tapping — used as an input technique in pen-based systems.

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baseline is basically where things “are” in the sense that what we see is what is being done by a “majority” within a competitive space. Now you could argue that, because most are doing something, more audiences experience the same…

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a flying mouse; an input device that permits pointing to objects in 3-dimensional space by moving the bat around in the air, similar in spirit to the use of a mouse to point to objects in 2-dimensional space.

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sending information by infrared from one device to another, as with remote control devices or when transferring electronic business cards between handheld computers.

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benchmark testing

(summative evaluation) a test designed primarily to measure the level of performance, or benchmark, in terms of usability, either so that it may be compared with another design or checked to see if it meets some goal (criterion testing).

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ways of measuring the degree of usability of a system. Examples of these include time to perform a task, number of errors, time to learn a system, and how a user feels after using a system.

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best practices

the things that we do in recognition and presentation of natural workflows, hierarchies and priorities, cues, integration (physical vs. mental), etc. Labels, on the other hand, come and go — best practices endure, for the most part, longer than labels…

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beta testing

testing a nearly-finished version of a piece of software, with the goal of finding bugs missed by the developers. Often beta testing is carried out by people outside of the developers organization.

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between-subjects design

a study designed to make a comparison of 2 or more designs and that compares them by having one set of users try one design and another set of users try another design, measuring their performance for each design. This…

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beveled appearance

the bevel is the bright or dark edge used on raised or lowered objects in a user interface to give them a 3-dimensional appearance. This pseudo-3d style is quite popular: by giving buttons a raised appearance, they appear to be…

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binocular display

also stereoscopic display; a display that is composed of 2 separate displays which are directed separately to the left and right eyes. The viewpoint is slightly different for each, reflecting the slightly different view each eye would have when embedded…

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the detection and use of unique identifying physical characteristics in identifying users of a system, typically for security reasons to restrict access without the use of passwords. Examples of biometric devices include: thumbprint readers, retina scanners, body heat scanners, and…

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bit depth

the number of bits used to represent the color of an individual pixel on a computer screen. A bit depth of 1 would represent that the pixel could only be on-off — a black-and-white display. 8-bit displays can display 256…

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software with too many features, interfering with usability. Usually a result of adding features over the course of multiple versions of the software and driven by ever-increasing feature lists used for evaluation in software reviews.

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blow-suck tube

an input device for users with limited mobility; a blow-suck tube is placed in the mouth and blown through. It can be used in conjunction with a tongue-activated joystick to move a pointer around and make selections.

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boolean search

a search that allows the user to enter logical expressions including AND, OR, and NOT. This is a common advanced search feature because of its ability to specify desired results very precisely. However, in natural language, “and” is frequently used…

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business process reengineering, the analysis of how work is done within a business and how it can be restructured for greater efficiency and profitability, especially by examining the workflow within the organization.

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brain-computer interface

or brain-body interface; an interface directly controlled by brain waves as opposed to physical movement. Current state-of-the-art can only distinguish a few brain states, so such interfaces usually are led by yes-no decisions. These interfaces require training and are currently…

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a creativity and problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous generation of as wide a spectrum of ideas as possible.

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brand identity

the aspect of a design that establishes a unique look and feel distinct from competing products but consistent within the product and its product line. The identity has these advantages:

it maintains a consistency that helps a user orient and

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on websites, a form of navigation where the current location within the website is indicated by a list of pages above this page in the hierarchy, up to the main page. For example, if you were browsing the products at…

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breakdown analysis

a technique for analyzing user interaction sequences which looks at times when users are focused on figuring out how to use the system (a “breakdown”) versus times when users are performing their intended tasks.

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Brooks’ Law

“Adding manpower to a late project makes it later.”

– from The Mythical Man-Month

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(graphic design) a small graphic element used to label items in a list. Typically a dot, circle, diamond, or square. For example:

a disc-shaped bullet a circular bullet a square bullet Read more »

business goals

part of the context in which user interface design takes place is the need for any design to satisfy not only the user’s goals but also the goals of the business producing the application, goals such as profitability and marketability.…

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business rules

statements specifying constraints and relationships between components of a user interface. For example:

The Age field may not be less than zero (a constraint on a numeric field widget). When the Credit Card Expiration Date is less than Today’s Date,

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busy pattern

a special way of displaying an icon, button, or other widget to indicate that it is temporarily unavailable because it is being used. Typically the busy pattern is indicated by showing an icon in a light gray dotted pattern. An…

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busy pointer

also called a wait pointer. An icon used for the pointer indicating that a process is being carried out and the software is not currently accepting input. Commonly represented by a watch, an hourglass, or a spinning beachball.

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an input device both on the screen and in the physical world, typically used to select among on/off states or to activate a command.

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