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When designing their UI, Access developers often make these common mistakes:

With the new breed of Windows XP icons, themes and form layouts, you will try and steer away from the old Access look. The XP look is cleaner, less cluttered, and quicker to navigate. With just a little time you can fix up your Access forms. Try these tips and see how you can transform even an Access Application!

Do you agree with them all? Are we missing some? Email us your tips, thoughts or arguments. Let us know what you think.

  1. Do you use OK/Cancel Buttons?

    It's always a good idea to do as Windows does because users are familiar with Windows dialogs. "Save" and "Cancel" are non-standard, for example. For more information read Do your forms have Accept and Cancel buttons? and Do you name your Accept button OK or Next? See the examples for how to do this on your form.
  2. Do you use appropriate and user-friendly icons?

    All through Windows XP you will see a variety of icons used to represent the information they are related to, and to make the interface more interesting and appealing. Just because you are developing forms in Access, doesn't mean your forms can't look and feel like Windows XP. One easy way to achieve this is to use XP-style icons. We love the icon library from Icon Experience - see some examples of how we used these icons to vastly improve an old and stuffy Access UI.
  3. Do you group forms into tabs where appropriate?

    Having a separate form for every block of data that needs to be entered can become a confusing and tedious process. A common example is having one form to add/edit Contact details, another to add/edit that Contact's Address details, and another to add/edit that contact's Qualifications. The most organized way to do this is by using tabs - see the examples.
  4. Do you target the correct resolution when designing forms?

    You will target your application towards resolutions that your customers can use comfortably. It is no good to just tell the customer to increase their resolution on their 15-inch LCD because your application and others can become unreadable on smaller screens. See this rule for a guide as to which resolutions you will be targeting.
  5. Do you use clean designs when creating forms? (Bad, Good and Best)

  6. Screenshots of an existing Application (Bad)

     A fairly standard Access 97 application that needs some love (Before a makeover)

    Figure:  Avoid using background colors for your form controls - they can be confusing (bad)

    Figure: Avoid using non-standard fonts on your forms - keep them as close to Windows XP forms as possible (bad)

    Figure: All these forms will be grouped into a tabbed form (bad)

    Figure: The colors on this form are very distracting and add no value to the user - keep it clean (bad)


    Screenshots of the existing Application in Access 97 after an SSW makeover (Good)

    After (these are the same forms – many developers think it is a .NET windows form!)

    Figure: This is the same application above - can you believe it? We grouped the forms into tabs

    Figure: The icons give the form visual appeal and help to break up the plain colors

    Figure: It's easy to present your form more cleanly and with a Windows XP feel

    Figure: Even tricky forms with lots of logic can be tidied up. We used XP-styled controls and careful alignment to make this form more usable.

    Access 2007 is an Easy Way to Give Your Old Access Application a new look (Best)

    Access 2007 UI Showcase (of all the Office products – Access 2007 got the best UI overhaul)

    These samples are from a Property Purchase and Negotiation Tracking application created for Queensland Water Infrastructure.

    Aqua Main Menu
    Figure: The main menu of one of our first Access 2007 UIs. It looks even better than the revamped Access 97 application.

    Figure: Note the Action buttons in the top right hand corner - they are based on the Access 2007 templates

    Figure: This picker form is based on a web-style picker UI such as Hotmail so users have a familiar UI

    Figure: With the use of frames with background colours, we have visually grouped controls

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