Sovereign Posture

Examples: Context:  The artifact will be heavily used, occupying the user's full attention, and the user is willing to invest time and effort to learn it.   Examples of nearly all of the primary patterns can be found using this pattern.

Problem:  How should this artifact relate spatially to other artifacts that might share its space, and how can it best use the space it has?


Solution:  Allow the artifact to take up all the space it needs to get the job done efficiently and gracefully.  However, don't take up too much space or time explaining what things are and what needs to be done, since the amount of time spent learning it will be trivial compared to the time spent using it as an experienced user.  Place state information and tools around the edges, within easy reach (Status Display, Convenient Environment Actions, Localized Object Actions, Toolbox), and organize the interface so that a user never needs to do a lot of manipulation to get at things they need often.

Visual clues and affordances, though they shouldn't be neglected, will not be as important in the long run as a clean, efficient interface -- use them sparingly.  Note that through its use of space, a Sovereign Posture application can present to the user a very large number of possible top-level actions.  This is desirable in some circumstances, but not in others; make sure that that's what you intend to do.

Resulting Context:  Pointer Shows Affordance and Short Description are often used to help cut down on the visual clutter, at the expense of always-visible affordances.

Users of this sort of artifact are likely to use it for long periods of time; they should be able to change their environment to suit them.  Therefore, let users rearrange the available working surfaces and tools to their own taste (Personal Object Space), and allow them to customize various settings (User Preferences).  Sufficiently complex artifacts may want to permit User's Annotations as well.

Notes:  Adapted from About Face, by Alan Cooper.

Someone on comp.human-factors came up with the idea of a "clue-clutter index":  a single number which indicates the relative importance of heavyweight visual affordances, help, big icons, etc.  Let the user pick a point on the "clue-clutter" scale that suits their needs, and the interface adjusts accordingly.  It's a fun idea.
This pattern's primary emphasis is on the judicious use of space.  What would it mean for a non-visual interface, such as one based on speech?  I think that in this context, space can be mapped pretty cleanly into time:  a motivated, experienced user with a low tolerance for hand-holding will want to be able to work through the interface as quickly as possible.  I've heard blind people literally speed up their speech synthesizers when they're trying to get something done fast (so that it sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks); they could also recognize a phrase in fractions of a second, cut it off, and move on to the next step. I couldn't understand a thing, but it obviously worked well for them.

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Last modified May 17, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999 by Jenifer Tidwell.  All rights reserved.