A new article by Jason Pamental in the TNW blog addresses some of the concerns designers face in attempting to design good, readable interfaces. One thing I like about this article is that he pays attention to something very close to my heart: typographic hierarchy. From the article: “Typographic hierarchy in design is generally how we convey what information is most important and portray it in a highly ‘glance-able’ way. Meaning, with the quickest flick of an eye towards the automotive display console, a driver should instantly see the next turn direction, the song title, the station name, etc.” Whether you design automotive solutions or not, this principle applies everywhere, in the form of orienting data – information that is meant to affirm that the user has found the right screen, the right record, etc. It also applies in that users don’t have much patience with monotonous data presentation; which is not to say that consistency is not key – it is – but having a clear idea of what is most important on every screen is a highly effective database design technique to help users work more efficiently.
Pamental goes on to write at length about the lack of good font choices for small devices, but the main takeaway is that not much is being done to improve on this. I would like to say that it’s better for FileMaker developers, but unfortunately, we rely on the vagaries of OS-level cross-platform font selection. In “Getting Started with Design 2: Type (part 1)” I give the rundown on fonts found on Mac and Windows OS, and the list is quite small: Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet, Tahoma, Georgia, Times New Roman, Palatino, and Courier New are all we have. The list gets even smaller when we include iOS devices in the mix, because we also have to subtract Tahoma from the list – it’s not an iOS-native font.
In the realm of typographic design, while things have improved over the last decade with the advent of web fonts, there is still a long way to go when it comes to supporting design choices universally. This is an area of great opportunity for burgeoning platforms of all types, whether they be OS-, service- or application-based. FileMaker will hopefully be among the innovators in this area of database design.