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We are practicing designers as well as teachers and consultants. Our work over many years includes a number of innovations in visual and interaction design devised to solve specific problems but also of potential broad applicability. In fact, our work has been recognized with first place in the 2001 Performance-Centered Design Competition.

The design innovations presented below, although taken out of the larger context of complete designs, illustrate some of the range of design solutions we have devised.

Hover Tabs

Click to view hover tabs in action Siemens STEP 7 Lite.Hover tabs are an extension to conventional tabbed dialogs and tabbed notebooks. In their current incarnation, hover tabs offer two simple changes in behavior that result in significant improvements in the usability. Conventional Windows-style tabbed dialogs do not support easy scanning or browsing of the contents of a collection of tabbed pages, and do not enable drag-and-drop movement of objects among tabbed pages. Both these operations become straightforward with small changes in the behavior of the tabs. The first full implementation of hover tabs in a commercial product can be found in the award-winning STEP 7 Lite PLC programming system from Siemens AG. Click the image above to see hover tabs in action. Covered by U.S. human-machine interaction patent #7055105.

Click to view progressive screen tips in Siemens STEP 7 Lite.Progressive Screen Tips

We first published the concept of progressive screen tips (or cascading tool tips) in our book, Software for Use. Progressive screen tips present two levels of prompting, with a second and more elaborate hint or explanation following an additional delay after the first-level tip appears. Coupled with links into the regular help files, progressive screen tips were used with great success in STEP 7 Lite system. Click the image at right to view progressive screen tips in action.

Dynamic Workspace

In order to support simple and flexible compilation and assembly of materials, we designed a dynamic workspace that anticipated the "dock" in Apple's OS X. The design of this dynamic workspace is described in depth in our third design study.

Bloom verb multi-modal selection list in iMind integrator.The "Bloom Widget"

Although defining standardized objectives for classroom lesson plans is a rather specialized problem, the design approach and process we used has broader implications. The special-purpose control that came to be known affectionately as a "Bloom Widget," made it possible for busy teachers to quickly pick the right "Bloom verb" from a large collection of standard terms describing levels of educational goals. The design is discussed in detail in our second design study.

Content and Content Navigation ControlTable-of-contents navigator and customizer.

In many contexts, users need to be able to pick and choose the sections to be included in a complex document but also need to be able to move quickly around among those various sections in the course of preparing, editing, or using a document. The custom table-of-contents control we designed on one project illustrates the subtle tradeoffs and creative combinations needed to evolve a design into a final workable form. The resulting component proved both efficient to use and easy to learn. We described the table-of-contents control and our design process in our first design study.

Persistent Shopping CartDesign for persistent shopping cart.

Persistent shopping carts that stay with the site visitor and keep their contents visible have become a standard of best practice in e-commerce on the Web. We designed one of the first persistent shopping carts for a client in 1998; an elegant current-generation descendent can be seen at Barnes and Noble. For a discussion of the issues, see our paper on the misuse of metaphors.