These are just two types of user interface though. There are many others that we may use in our personal and work lives.
In this lesson, we’ll learn about:
A graphical user interface, or GUI (pronounced Gooey), is the type of interface that you and I most commonly use on a daily basis. It is often also known as a WIMP interface. WIMP stands for Windows, Icons, Menus & Pointers.
You see, a graphical user interface makes use of images to provide a visual display of what you are interacting with on the computer. These images are normally organised into:
We can see an example of this type of interface in figure 1 below.
One area where graphical user interfaces slightly differ is in mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets. These use a GUI, but of course, we don’t have an on-screen pointer, because our finger is the pointer.
Despite some of these disadvantages, as the interface is so much easier and more intuitive than alternative interfaces it has become the de-facto interface for most modern computer systems, such as your desktop, laptop, smartphone & tablet.
The disadvantage of it being processor & memory intensive is not as much an issue in modern computers that have powerful processors and lots of memory, and the fact it can be slower than a text-based interface only is true if you know the commands, which most computer users don’t.
Which operating systems (e.g. Mac OSX and Windows) with a graphical user interface have you used? Consider what is similar between them and what is different.
A sensor is a device that reads physical data, such as the temperature. With a sensor interface, a computing device will use sensors that read this physical data and then perform actions based on the information it gathers.
A simple example of this might be your home central heating system. You might set it so that the temperature is 22o. The central heating system will monitor the room temperate using a sensor and will automatically turn on or off your heating based on what temperature the sensor reads.
It’s not just temperature sensors though, sensors could detect light, sound, rainfall, window speed, pressure, motion and much more.
While this type of interface has only very limited purposes, we do see them used all the time and this is increasing as many “smart home” devices rely on this type of interface. For example, your smart central heating, home security and lighting systems. They’re also used in hospitals a lot for monitoring patients, such as their heart rate and oxygen levels.
Other than hospitals, what other types of industry would make a lot of use of sensors? What types of sensor do they use and why are they so important?
This type of user interface presents the user with a menu that contains a list of options. The user navigates through various sub-menus by choosing the relevant option in order to perform the function they want.
You can see this type of user interface used in many self-service kiosks. For example, cash machines at the bank and self-service tills at the supermarket both commonly use menu-based interfaces. Many fast-food restaurants also have self-service kiosks that use menu-based interfaces to choose your meal.
These examples we’ve talked about are all also typically graphical interfaces. However, we can have text-based and speech-based menu interfaces. You might have called a businesses phone line and been told:
This is also a menu-based interfaced.
So, as we’ve seen, a menu-based interface is really simple to follow, but really can only be used for a small number of simple functions. This is why the most common place we see menu-based interfaces is in these self-service kiosks, such as those on a cash machine, or the self-service machine at a fast-food restaurant.
Where else might you see a menu-based interface? Can you think of another type of kiosk? Or perhaps a home entertainment device?
So to summarise what we’ve learnt in this lesson: