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1.2.6. Techniques for Getting the User's Attention

Some techniques for getting user's attention are widely employed in user interfaces. They are derived from empirical studies and can be summarized as follows: (Marinilli 2003)

  • Animation
    Items blinking on the screen easily capture the user's attention. This technique can be disturbing and invasive. Animation is often used to express the GUI internal state, signaling work in progress or activity in general.
Animation that confuses the user Wisely used animation
  • Colour
    Like animation, this technique should be used wisely. Too many colours tend to produce confusing GUIs.
Too many colours on the screenToo many colours on the screen Wisely used colours on the screenWisely used colours on the screen
  • Sound
    As with technique, when used wisely, can be very effective. Indeed, when dealing with disabled people, sound signals could offer an effective feedback means.
  • Graphic Adornments (such as bold fonts, special graphics, and so forth)
    When used wisely and coherently, these graphic conventions could be effective without being disruptive.
Graphical adornments are not wisely usedGraphical adornments are not wisely used Wisely used graphical adornmentsWisely used graphical adornments

A few words of caution are necessary. (2005) says: " There is a danger in creating cluttered displays by overusing these techniques. Some web designers use blinking advertisements or animated icons to attract attention, but users almost universally disapprove. Animation is appreciated primarily when it provides meaningful information [...]. Audio tones, like the clicks in keyboards or ringing sounds in telephones, can provide informative feedback about progress. Alarms for emergency conditions do alert users rapidly, but a mechanism to suppress alarms must be provided." (Shneiderman et al. 2005)

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