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
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 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
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.
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
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 Control
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
process in our first design study.
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.
© 2008, Constantine & Lockwood, Ltd. All world rights reserved.