Connecting People and Products – The User Interface ( Part III )

15 Mar
Georg Wiora (Dr. Schorsch) made this SVG-drawing (wikimedia)



In the previous part, thoughts were on components that make a UI

Part III : Screen Real Estate – Information Display

Crux of it…

Displaying numbers and other information..

Now that we have so many types of displays, focused thinking on the way of putting information onto the displays is order of the day.

The screen real estate is very cramped most of the times and , as designers, we face hardships in judiciously utilizing the space.

Before going further, these questions lingered in my mind.


Who needs this display information?

What do they intend to do with it?

Do they have the necessary skills and necessary experience, or, if framed the other way around,  are we going to design to suit the skills of  the user?

Do we really know the user’s needs?

If we have the answers for the above, I guess we have succeeded in completing the design in question.

When we know the user’s needs, goals and aspirations, we get most of the work done. However, there are certain fundamental design attributes one may look at. Few thoughts about these fundamental requirements are necessary at this stage.

Mask Leading Zeros

The benefits are Power Saving and user comfort. I, personally never liked displays showing 123 as 00123. It may look good for bank account numbers and not in a display.


Always use one leading zero to show a decimal number which is less than 1.0. This means we should display .8 as 0.8

Incrementing/Decrementing Numbers

While changing set values in a product one must be able to set them easily and swiftly. For each key press the response must be swift which is normally less than 200 milliseconds. To change a value from 10 to 100, if the display takes a long time, the user gets uncomfortable. This can be avoided by measuring the time during which key is being pressed and incrementing the values in almost an exponential manner. This is best described as below.

Upto increment of first 5 seconds  : Increment value every half a second

Upto next 5 seconds                      : Increment value every 200 milliseconds

From there on                                 : Increment value every 50 milliseconds

Same applies for decrementing values.

Seven Segment Displays

These displays are used in multiplexed mode, meaning, each display will be on for a certain period and switched off while the next one switches on.

Units Display ON –> Units Display Off –> Tens Display On –> Tens Display Off and so on.

Since, the frequency of this switching is normally in milliseconds, human eye does not detect the changes and feels that the displays are on continuously. Multiplexing is used primarily used to reduce hardware and power consumption.

If sufficient time is not provided to switch off the previous display, then we will have ghost display of the next digit on the previous digit. This is quite annoying and looks cumbersome. It would pay to write the necessary code like this.

Units Display ON –> Delay  –> Units Display Off  –>  Delay  –> Tens Display On –>  Delay  –> Tens Display Off  –> and so on.

Note : We mean Units Digit by Units Display and so on.

Character LCD Modules

When using LCD Modules, in-built cursor can be disabled, as it does not provide a neat look in such a small screen.

Special Character space in LCD modules can be used to make big digits in Character LCD Modules.


Creating big digits with standard charater LCDs is easily done as provided in Bascom website – AN #07. (

The above requirements, if met, the User Interface makes a lot of difference to the user.

Coming Up…  

Part IV : Keys and Controls

Thoughts on keys, controls and related designs.

Designspark – 05/05/11


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