Years ago attended some training in information design from Jared Spool of the firm User Interface Engineering. One thing that Jared said that really stuck with me was this: in the software design community we use the phrase "look and feel" a lot, and usually we spit it out as a single word, lookandfeel. But it's useful to parse the phrase. A software UI like an operating system or application has certain attributes that we can call "look" attributes, and other attributes that we can call "feel" attributes."
Look is: • The "first impression" visual appeal (for example, "Oh I recognize that this table in Project reminds me of Excel"). • The ability to transfer knowledge from experience with a different UI (like the fill handle for using the AutoFill feature in both Excel and Project). • From a software design perspective, relatively easy to change or customize (or "skin," as we sometimes say).
While feel is: • Deep and architectural; baked into the bones of the product. • Extremely difficult if not impossible to change beyond a certain point in the product development lifecycle.
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Carl and Tim Johnson are currently working on Microsoft Project 2010 Step by Step, which will be available in June.