An effective user interface is an important component of any type of Decision Support System, but it is especially important for systems that will be used directly by managers. In a Decision Support System, the user interface is sometimes called the dialogue or "front-end" component. Some might ask "why is the user interface or dialogue component of a DSS so important?" Research indicates that the easier it is to use a DSS interface, then the more "user friendly" most people will consider the system and hence the greater the chance that managers will actually use the DSS. The user interface is what managers see when they work with a DSS.
Does the user interface of a DSS differ from the user interface for any other computerized system? What guidelines can improve DSS user interfaces? Managers should be the primary users of DSS so a DSS user interface should help managers interact with the system. When a DSS user interface is complex or difficult to use a staff person may need to assist in using a DSS. So some user interfaces can increase the operating costs of a DSS and probably limit its use. Can we avoid this outcome? If so, how? This chapter presents the basics of user interface design and the technologies that are used to create effective user interfaces. The focus in the chapter is on how display screens should look and how a DSS user interface should function. The chapter examines the ROMC design approach, building a DSS user interface, design elements, guidelines for dialog and user interface design, and factors influencing user interface success.
The goal of user interface design is developing screen layouts and interfaces that are easy to use and that are visually attractive (cf., Galitz, 1985). Both the intended users of a Decision Support System and information systems designers need to participate actively in designing and evaluating DSS user interfaces. Letís examine the concept of a user interface.