The GUI of a successful application must, first and foremost, be intuitive and easy to use. It can have all the fancy graphics and latest technologies, but if it doesn't let the user accomplish their tasks quickly and naturally, it will never gain acceptance.
The GUIs of most thriving applications will have many features in common. They will be intuitive. They will be tailored to the workflow of the users. They will be quick and responsive to user input. They will be neat, clean, and generally uncluttered. Most importantly, they will inspire confidence in the users that they are doing things correctly, because the application guides them through the workflow in an obvious and expected way.
At LBi, when we begin designing a new application, the first thing we ask ourselves is "How can we help the user accomplish their goals as easily as possible?" We then design a system based around the answer to that key question. The user interface will be simple and require little to no training. The menus and page structure will be based on the desired workflow so that users can complete their work correctly and quickly. The major navigation controls will be prominently displayed in logical locations. Navigation between screens or pages within the application will be quick.
This is not to say the application will not look good, or will be based on antiquated technologies - just that these things will not come at the expense of usability.
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