While the rest of the automation world is focused on the small screens of mobile phones and tablets, I would like to discuss how courts can better use higher resolution monitors for our applications.
In the past week I have been looking at the various different user interface guidelines issued by Microsoft, Apple and others and have noticed a distinct bias (limitation?) toward designs for data consumption. While I do understand that this IS the new big market for companies, in courts we do something different than what seems to be their current focus; we create data.
But before we get started with that discussion, I do want to send a “shout out” to the work being done by participants of the Stanford Design School OpenLawLab project and their “Legal Design Jam” where they recently explored concepts for better legal document design. For some very interesting ideas see: http://www.openlawlab.com/2013/11/06/getting-meaningful-designs/
Now back to our topic. Courts create a lot information and documents. Note the word, create. And that data creation is not done on content consumption devices such as mobile phones.
Fortuitously, in parallel with the technology developments in mobile and tablets has been the production of cheaper and cheaper “1080p” monitors that are the same resolution as “True HD” (1920x1080) television screens. Just this morning I looked and found a 22” monitor for $120 USD and a 21.5” for $100. So large, high resolution screens are certainly affordable to courts.
In an article last year, “Computer Screens Getting Bigger” by Jakob Nielsen the author notes the following summary points:
- Changes in screen sizes happen very slowly
- Small screens are finally so rare … that we don’t have to design for them (except for mobile of course)
- Big screens are now the most common (1280-1600 pixels wide)…
- In usability studies, the cardinal rule is always to test on the equipment used by the most customers
There are a couple more observations in his article, but these are the salient points for our discussion below. But his conclusion notes that “(d)esigners should start experimenting with ways to utilize horizontal screen space and create web pages that enhance usability for people with big monitors and widescreen monitors.” I couldn’t agree more.
Now when asked what a case management system is by someone I am sitting next to on an airplane, I respond it is essentially an accounting system for court cases. In that context I found an article about the QuickBooks 2013 New User Interface to be useful in thinking about our CCMS user interfaces.
The article notes that “(a)ccording to Intuit, QuickBooks 2013” (that some of the) “user interface changes will:
- Introduce a new visual design which modernizes and standardizes the look and feel.
- Reduce the cognitive burden by using larger fonts, bigger rows, and green highlighting.
- Add a left icon bar that provides quick access to common functions. This removes the top icon bar to take better advantage of widescreen monitors.”
- Provide first time use guidance for upgraders by adding an overlay of tips to highlight major changes. The goal is to orient upgraders quickly so any disruption is minimalized and you can get back to work in the new version quickly.
- Add a Ribbon interface to the 13 most commonly used transaction forms, making it easier to find what used to be hidden and hard to find controls and options.
- Maximize workspace control for transaction forms”
Wouldn’t all those ideas be potentially helpful to our users of CCMS? I believe so. In particular the ability to use larger fonts and rows with highlighting and vertical icon bars.
In my recent design work we are looking at a left side task / search result column, a central workspace for data entry, and a right column that contains the “next” button to complete the work at hand in the normal matter or, options for rerouting tasks when needed, and a context oriented help area. The idea being that work would “visually flow” on from left to right on the screen which is a normal convention in “western” languages. But of course for those countries that read their text from right to left, the same concept could be flipped.
None of this is possible without the 16:9 format wide screen HD monitors. And since the hardware is changing, we should take advantage of the addition screen format and resolution to the benefit of our court system users.