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Software Engineering Tips in Designing Program Input and Output Screens

by: Kenneth Tello | 17 Dec, 2010 00:36:48

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Graphical User Interface (GUI) is the part of the program that interacts with the user, allowing them to enter data, take command on how the data are going to be processed and view and generates the needed output and printouts. You as programmer, your main responsibility are to provide user the easiest and most convenient way of interacting the program and generating output; be it an inventory system, a payroll system or an enrollment system. Before you get hyped with the project and face your computer for coding, know what you’re client needs through requirements specification process (the first step in software engineering); specifying the type of input and output data as well as the details of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) like the font size or color, textboxes, radio buttons alignments etc. After you have analyzed and understood what the user wants on their program, then all that is left is translating these requirements into source code, and eventually a complete system.

Tips in Designing Program Input Screen

External design is the software engineering activity which involves collection and analysis of the system requirements from the user, as well as creating functions based on these requirements. Basically there are three important tasks in external design: code design, output design and screen design. This article provides you, the programmer simple tips on form and a screen design for these tasks specifically involves the interaction between the user and the program. Every programmer must practice “egoless programming” and stick with the user’s specifications.

When designing the Graphical User Interface (GUI) for input screen, the key point every programmer should remember when designing is to design the program interface compatible with user or users, allowing user to input data correctly and efficiently.

  • Try to simplify the input objects (text box, text area, etc.) preventing them to take too much space on your screen.
  • Design a screen that is easy to follow (i.e. placing input objects in a top-to-bottom, left-to-right fashion.
  • Consider the input data type (character for names, number for age, alphanumeric for address etc.), the limit for each of the input object (say 20 characters for names, 2 digits for age, 40 characters for address etc.).
  • Create design standards for screen layout in all screens as well as the program’s operability. Establishing design standards makes your GUI consistent.
  • Always keep labels, error messages, dialogue boxes etc. consistent.
  • Group objects efficiently especially buttons, checkboxes and radiobuttons to make the screen easy to follow and consistent.
  • When using colors on the screen, try to ask the users what types or shades of colors they want to avoid major revisions in your design. Use light colors as much as possible for labels and bright for highlighting important portions of the screen.

Tips in Designing Program Output Screen

Once the user enters the data on the program or system and clicking the desired process for the data they entered, they just wait for the results to be displayed on screen. In a payroll system for example, after encoding the number of days present and the basic pay, the user will just wait for the system to display the total salary. In simple words, they don’t care how the computation took place; all that matters to them is the output. This is the main reason why you, as programmer must design an effective output screen (including output printouts) that is easy is well organized while not compromising accuracy and reliability.

  • Position the output data based on their sequence and relationship with each other to ensure data consistency in the output screen as well as in reports.
  • Make sure that titles correctly describe the content of the report to avoid confusions in the data displayed.
  • Items should have proper spacing making it more readable and organized.
  • Highlight in bold important dates such as date prepared, date approved etc.
  • When designing output screen, make sure that important data or items must be easy to identify so that it is easy for users to use understand the output.

Actually, there are still more tips you could follow in designing your GUI depending on your system. Nonetheless, what’s more important is you deliver what the user wants.

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very well defined....

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