While using computer systems was an expensive privilege that required special knowledge, as user interfaces became simpler, and hardware-software costs became more affordable, more and more enterprises, institutions and organizations shift to digital data-handling solutions, like client databases, billing systems and electronic registries. Accessibility, security and searchability are just a few of the benefits of digitalization: nowadays, mature, off-the-shelf database management systems and powerful rapid application development platforms are available to fulfill the need for information systems fast and cost-effectively.
Usability of these systems, however, is often neglected: verification of the user experience is missing from the lifecycle of most software, and even if usability tests are conducted, it mostly happens at the end of the development project, when proper resolution of the revealed issues is usually not feasible due time and budget constraints. Beginning those tests early on is especially important if the user interface contains non-trivial, novel interface elements.
This paper explains the role of graphical user interfaces and the challenges of their realization, as well as the most important guidelines that drove the development of early solutions. A special problem with especially high usability requirements, the management of theater props, gets introduced then, along with the unique needs it has compared to other registry applications. The possibilities of creating such an application utilizing .NET Framework 4.0 will be described, and the development of a concrete implementation, with special emphasis on how data storage was implemented and how the user interface was realized, as well as testing the user experience during early phases of development, and using test results to improve the application.
Using .NET Framework 4.0 – along with choosing the right technologies and architecture – turned out to be a good decision, with regards to both the implementation of a flexible data storage, and making the user interface more user-friendly. Conducting usability tests, and utilizing their results during development, proved to be a valuable tool in checking and improving the user experience.