Database Interface

Overview No matter how complete, organized, and well maintained a database is, it's useless without a user interface.  Good user interfaces allow people to find the information they need quickly and with a minimal amount of interaction; bad user interfaces make it difficult or even impossible to locate and display information stored in the database. Follow the links below for examples of good and bad database interface design, hints and tips on how to design database user interfaces, and resources for help on database interface design.

General Information Read Making Usable Products: An Informal Process for Good User Interfaces for general user interface design hints. The page at www.15seconds.com/Issue/001025.htm details database interface design using ASP (Active Server Pages). For examples of bad design practices, take a look at Jakob Nielsen's Top Ten Web-Design Mistakes. User Interface Engineering includes design tips for both database interfaces, and general Web pages. You can also find hints and tips on design at User Interface Design for Programmers. The Web Accessibility Initiative is a group dedicated to promoting quality Web design.

Search interfaces Most good database interfaces have a multi-level search capability. Amazon.com's basic search appears on the main Web page and makes searching for a particular book easy. More advanced searches can be performed at the advanced search page. Even more advanced searches are detailed on the power search page. In contrast, look at the Renovator's Supply web page. The search is limited to one search term or item #. There is no "advanced" or "power" search options. Which interface would you rather use?

Information gathering interfaces Consider the .NET passport registration form. The fields are concise and well-defined. There's a Help link. The information collected is relevant and not lengthy. You have options to print out the terms of use if you'd like to look them over off-line. Contrast it with the NetAddress registration form. The page has very little information. What types of passwords are valid? Can you use any sort of user name? What are the terms of use? Although lengthy discussion of every user-input field is usually not necessary, hints, tips, and links to more information can and should be included.

Additional Links Test your design - early and often is a case study of one company's user interface design review. Designing and Implementing Web Application Interfaces is another general  good interface design overview. Finally, WebPagesThatSuck.com is a collection of truly bad Web pages.