Status Display

Examples: Context:  The artifact must display state information that is likely to change over time, especially if that state information represents many variables.

Problem:  How can the artifact best show the state information to the user?


Solution:  Choose well-designed displays for the information to be shown.  Put them together in a way that emphasizes the important things, deemphasizes the trivial, doesn't hide or obscure anything, and prevents confusing one piece of information with another.  Never rearrange it, unless the user does it themselves. Call attention to important information with bright color, blinking or motion, sound, or all three -- but use a technique appropriate to the actual importance of the situation to the user (such as Important Message).

Resulting Context:  If there is a large set of homogeneous information, use High-density Information Display and the patterns that support it (Hierarchical Set, Tabular Set, Chart or Graph); if you have a value which is binary or is one of a small set of possible values, use Choice from a Small Set. Visually group together discrete items which form a logical group (Small Groups of Related Things), and do this at several levels if you have to. For example, date and time are usually found in the same place.

Tiled Working Surfaces often works well with a Status Display, since it hides nothing -- the user does not need to do any window manipulation to see what they need to see.  (You might even let the users rearrange the Status Display to suit their needs, using Personal Object Space.) If you don't have the space to describe what each of the displayed variables are (e.g. Background Posture), or if your users are generally experts who don't need to be told (e.g. Sovereign Posture), then use Short Description to tell the users what they are.

Notes:  Use the positioning of an item within the Status Display to good effect; remember that people born into a European or American culture tend to read left-to-right, top-to-bottom, and that something in the upper left corner will be looked at most often.

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Last modified May 17, 1999

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