Simplicity, Consistency, Universality, Flexibility and Familiarity: The SCUFF Principles for Developing User Interfaces for Ambient Computer Systems

Simplicity, Consistency, Universality, Flexibility and Familiarity: The SCUFF Principles for Developing User Interfaces for Ambient Computer Systems

Rich Picking (Glyndwr University, UK), Vic Grout (Glyndwr University, UK), John McGinn (Glyndwr University, UK), Jodi Crisp (Glyndwr University, UK) and Helen Grout (Glyndwr University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0038-6.ch014
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Abstract

This paper describes the user interface design, and subsequent usability evaluation of the EU FP6 funded Easyline+ project, which involved the development of ambient assistive technology to support elderly and disabled people in their interaction with kitchen appliances. During this process, established usability design guidelines and principles were considered. The authors’ analysis of the applicability of these has led to the development of a new set of principles, specifically for the design of ambient computer systems. This set of principles is referred to as SCUFF, an acronym for simplicity, consistency, universality, flexibility and familiarity. These evaluations suggest that adoption of the SCUFF principles was successful for the Easyline+ project, and that they can be used for other ambient technology projects, either as complementary to, or as an alternative to more generic and partially relevant principles.
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User Interface Design Guidelines And Principles

The process of user interface design can be highly complex, as typically there are many competing variables involved. We could describe those variables as the who (the user population), the where (the environment the proposed system will be used in), the how (the style of user interaction, and the design of the tasks), and the what (the technological nature of the devices as well as the software/hardware constraints). Most user interface designers champion the who as the most important of the four variables, and consequently advocate a user-centred approach to their work.

To support designers in their consideration of users, a number of guidelines have been published over many years. Such guidelines aim to steer designers by keeping them on the track of developing quality, consistent user interfaces that conform to the standards expected by the owners of the guidelines. Examples of these include Apple’s I-phone Human Interface Guidelines (Apple Inc., 2010) and Microsoft’s Inductive User Interface Guidelines (Microsoft Corporation, 2001). As they tend to be for specific styles of interaction, for known types of devices, and for tasks that take place in typical environments (in other words the how’s, what’s and where’s are predictable), such guidelines are always highly detailed.

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