Topics / Hardware and Software / User Interface Design

User Interface Design

A user interface is the boundary between the user and a computer system.  It allows us to communicate with the computer, and vice versa.

There are many types of user interfaces, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.  Some are outlined below.


Graphical User Interface (GUI)

A graphical user interface is common in desktop computers, tablets, mobiles, TVs, set top boxes, photocopiers, car entertainment systems, and sat navs etc.

Graphical user interfaces are recognisable by their use of windows, icons, menus and pointers (WIMP).

WindowsAn area of the screen devoted to a specific task, e.g. an open app or dialog box
IconsAn image used to represent a program, file or task. The icon can be selected to open the program, file or task
MenusWords on the screen which represent a list of options that can be expanded into further sub-menus
PointersThe method of representing movement from a pointing device such as a mouse or human finger on a touch screen. The pointer is also used to select and manipulate objects on the screen

Advantages of a GUI

  • Intuitive to use, so easy to learn (due to commands represented as images and menus).

Disadvantages of a GUI

  • Can be restrictive, especially when attempting unusual tasks.
  • Sometimes require a lot of computer memory.

Command Line Interface (CLI)

A command line interface allows the user to enter text commands into the computer.  The computer responds with text based results.

Advantages of a CLI

  • Uses very little memory to operate.
  • Great for technical users who wish to carry out complex tasks quickly.

Disadvantages of a CLI

  • Can be difficult to learn and use as you have to know all of the text commands.
  • Easy to make errors.

Dialogue Interface

A dialogue interface uses spoken words to communicate with the computer system.  The computer responds with an action or further spoken words.

Dialogue interfaces can sometimes be found in mobile devices (e.g. Siri in an iPhone), in-car entertainment, home entertainment systems (e.g. Amazon Alexa or Echo) and home automation systems (e.g. lighting, curtains).

Advantages of dialogue interfaces

  • No hands are needed.
  • Can be quicker than typing.

Disadvantages of dialogue interfaces

  • The user needs to know the correct commands.
  • Can sometimes struggle to recognise spoken words.
Topics / Hardware and Software / User Interface Design