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About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design by David Cronin, Robert Reimann, Alan Cooper

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Chapter 18. Improving Data Entry

In Chapter 12, we discussed how interactive products should be designed to behave like considerate and intelligent people. One of the ways in which products are least capable in this regard is when the user is required to enter data. Some unfortunate artifacts of implementation-model thinking prevent people from working in the way they find most natural. In this chapter, we’ll discuss problems with existing ways of dealing with data entry and some possible strategies for making this process more focused on human needs and less focused on the needs of the database.

Data Integrity versus Data Immunity

One of the most critical requirements for properly functioning software is clean data. As the aphorism says, “garbage in, garbage out.” As a result, programmers typically operate according to a simple imperative regarding data entry and data processing: Never allow tainted, unclean data to touch an application. Programmers, thus, erect barriers in user interfaces so that bad data can never enter the system and compromise the pure internal state that is commonly called data integrity.

The imperative of data integrity posits that there is a world of chaotic information out there, and before any of it gets inside the computer it must be filtered and cleaned up. The software must maintain a vigilant watch for bad data, like a customs official at a border crossing. All data is validated at its point of entry. Anything on the outside is assumed to be suspect, ...

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