Visual Basic Concepts

Visual Studio 6.0

Creating a User Interface

The user interface is perhaps the most important part of an application; it's certainly the most visible. To users, the interface is the application; they probably aren't aware of the code that is executing behind the scenes. No matter how much time and effort you put into writing and optimizing your code, the usability of your application depends on the interface.

When you design an application, a number of decisions need to be made regarding the interface. Should you use the single-document or multiple-document style? How many different forms will you need? What commands will your menus include, and will you use toolbars to duplicate menu functions? What about dialog boxes to interact with the user? How much assistance do you need to provide?

Before you begin designing the user interface, you need to think about the purpose of the application. The design for a primary application that will be in constant use should be different from one that is only used occasionally for short periods of time. An application with the primary purpose of displaying information has different requirements than one used to gather information.

The intended audience should also influence your design. An application aimed at a beginning user demands simplicity in its design, while one for experienced users may be more complex. Other applications used by your target audience may influence their expectations for an application's behavior. If you plan on distributing internationally, language and culture must be considered part of your design.

Designing a user interface is best approached as an iterative process — you will rarely come up with a perfect design on the first pass. This chapter introduces you to the process of designing an interface in Visual Basic, providing an introduction to the tools you need to create a great application for your users.

Topics

Interface Styles

A discussion of MDI, SDI, and other interface styles.

Multiple-Document Interface (MDI) Applications

Techniques for designing MDI applications.

More About Forms

Information about the advanced features of forms.

Using Menus in Your Application

In-depth coverage of menus, including pop-up menus.

Toolbars

How to add toolbars to your application.

Dialog Boxes

How to use dialog and message boxes to interact with users.

Designing for Different Display Types

A discussion of display considerations.

Designing with the User in Mind

A discussion of user-focused design and design techniques.


Sample applications

Mdinote.vpb, Sdinote.vbp

Many of the code samples in this chapter are taken from the Mdinote.vbp and Sdinote.vbp sample applications which are listed in the directory.

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