The User Interface (Part 3)

Part 3

The Microsoft LightSwitch team chose to change the paradigm associated with the user interface of the HTML client.

SDI (Single Document Interface) instead of MDI (Multiple Document Interface) aligns with the ‘Responsive Design’ philosophy of starting with the mobile application and adding functionality for larger view ports. The SDI interface also provides a task oriented UI that works well with phones and tablets.

One of the things that was most difficult for me was to overcome my focus on packing as much on a screen as functionally possible. I focused on minimizing the number of clicks and screens/pages/forms that a user was required to interact with. On a mobile phone or table I really needed to change this philosophy and focus every touch on accomplishing something of significance.

The LightSwitch team also focused on screen reuse, tabbed documents and functional interaction to create the compelling user interface of the HTML client.

Navigation boundaries is another new, at least to me, concept that presents some interesting opportunities and challenges. The Save boundary, the Nested boundary and the None boundary have been defined to provide interaction context within the LightSwitch application.

Navigation Boundaries

Each time a user moves between tabs in a screen, shows a dialog or shows another screen, a navigation boundary is crossed. There are three boundary options that may be applied at a navigation boundary that affect both the navigation to the target and the return from the target to the source.

The Save boundary option is only applicable when showing another screen:

Before navigating to the target, if there are changes in the data workspace the user is prompted to save or discard these changes.
While showing the target, the shell exposes “Save” and “Discard” buttons.
Before returning from the target, if there are changes in the data workspace the user is prompted to save or discard these changes.

The Nested boundary option is applicable when showing a dialog or another screen:

Before navigating to the target, a new nested change set is started on the data workspace.
While showing the target, the shell exposes “OK” and “Cancel” buttons.
Before returning from the target, if there were changes made the user is prompted to keep or cancel these changes.

The None boundary option is applicable for all navigation scenarios (and is the only option available when moving between tabs in a screen):

Before navigating to the target, no specific behavior occurs.
If the target is another screen tab, the shell exposes the previously visible buttons.
If the target is a dialog or another screen, the shell exposes a “Back” button.
Before returning from the target, no specific behavior occurs.

Additional Reading

Responsive Web Design with Ethan Marcotte

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