The Business Interface

The inventory manager sat down to look at the day’s reports. To scrutinise further, he went to the computer screen so that he could get some detailed information about aluminium pipes, their raw material. Once he logged in, he tried to get information about the quantity and quality of the aluminium pipes received. To his surprise, the screen prompted him to enter the inventory ID number; in a baffled state he tried to look around but failed. On speaking with the IT engineer, he came to know that there was a user manual in the shelf which would provide the ID number for aluminium pipes, that had to be used.

As a software engineer I realise that the software application had to maintain an internal ID for every raw material; and I also realise that it is only the software application that needs it, not the inventory manager. This is a classic case of wrong design – where the user was forced to identify an item the way the software identified it. Shouldn’t it be exactly the opposite way? If the software used aluminium pipes for identification, it would be much more convenient for the inventory manager and would have saved him effort and time. I am sure there would be cases where only the raw material name might not be enough to identify it. However it can still be combined with other pieces of information that the inventory manager knows, the way he identified in the real world. This is what we call Business Interface.

The rule of thumb is to hide entities created by the software for itself, that don’t exist in the real world, from the user. Though the software internally has its own system, it should be appreciated that it is being used in the real world, by real world people.

It is quite possible that the same thing is called differently by different users. To be able to understand these details, it is imperative to identify all the different types of users that will interact with the software, including the administrators. The information required by the software and the output given should always be in a language and terminology that the users understand. This not only makes it more usable, but also requires the user to learn minimal things to use the software.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

2 Responses to “The Business Interface”

  1. Abhijit Nadgouda @ iface » What Makes An Effective Interface? Says:

    […] It follows then that the success of any system depends on how well the server presents information to its clients – revealing only what is necessary and comprehensible, and hiding the rest. Let me illustrate this with another example: Imagine you’re trying to read labels of products in a grocery store, with the intention of buying the product. If the labels are written in a language that you do not understand, or employs terms that you cannot fathom, the information printed on it would be indecipherable. In that case it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for you to use that information to make your purchase decision. The purpose of providing the information would be defeated and the system would fail. It would be appropriate to mention here, that by language I don’t mean just the literal language buy any medium of communication that it depends on, and is affected by the client’s profile. The Braille script is a wonderful interface, which meets the challenge of letting the visually challenged read, where the normal medium of communication was not suitable. This same principle is used in software designing to make sure that all the Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) are presented in a language that a user understands – both the literal language and in user terms. This is a main factor when assessing an interface’s usability. Such an interface is typically called the Business Interface – an interface that a business user will understand. It is of utmost importance to identify the language and environment of your user when creating the interface. […]

  2. Abhijit Nadgouda @ iface » Incorporating Usability Says:

    […] Content Identification is to identify what is to be shown to the user. You can have lot of information with you, but you should provide only that is useful to the user. More information can not only lead to confusion, but also lesser productivity. Therefore it is critical to identify all the content that the user needs, a mistake here can lead to either less or more information – both can be harmful. Read Business Interface for more. This is useful even in functionality driven softwares, e.g., in the audio player you see lot of information about the song you are playing, the duration, the quality. This is all information for you, the user. […]

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