Following are the guidelines, which should be followed while preparing the printed and visual display outputs. It will not only make the analyst’s job easier, but will also ensure that users will receive an understandable output.
i. Printer Outputs
1. Reports and documents should be designed to read from left to right and top to bottom.
2. The most important item should be easiest to find.
3. Each printed reports should include the heading or title of the report, page number, date of preparation and column headings. The heading of title of the report orients the user to what it is they are reading. The title should be descriptive, yet concise. Each page should be numbered so that the user has an easy point of reference when discussing output with others or relocating important figures. The data of report preparation should be included on each print out. Sometimes this helps
users to estimate the value of the output. Column headings serve to further orient the user as to the report contents.
4. Each data item must have a heading, which should be short and descriptive. Data items that are related to one another should be grouped together on the report.
5. Control breaks should be used in the report to help readability. There should be control breaks summaries and other important information boxing them off with special characters such as asterisks or extra space. This makes it easier to find critical information.
6. Sufficient margin should be left on the right and left as well as top and bottom of an output report. This enables the user to focus his attention on the material centered on the page and make/s reading easier.
7. The detail line for variable data should be defined indicating whether each space is to be used for an alphabetic, special or numeric character.
8. The mock up reports should be reviewed user and programmers for feasibility, usefulness, readability, understandability and an esthetic appeal.
ii. Visual display output:
Many of the principles of good design discussed for printed output also apply to output that is shown on work-stations or video display terminals. However, it should be noted that a visual display terminal offers less space to work with compared to most printed outputs. Moreover, the system analyst is also required to give instructions to the user on how to use the display unit.
iii. Layout of display screen:
Each display page is commonly called a screen or panel. Its lay out will ease or impede its use. Designing a layout begins with verifying the characteristics of the display screen. These include:
(i) Physical dimensions of the screen;
(ii) Number of rows and columns of data that can be displayed;
(iii) Degree of resolution (high, medium, low);
(iv) Number of colours available (for example, monochrome, three colours, eight colours etc.);
(v) Methods of highlighting (underline, bold, blinking, alternate intensitities);
(vi) Methods of intensity control (high/low; normal inverse).
Visual display screen typically have 80 columns with 24 or 25 lines. Point-of-sale display and some portable computers have smaller dimensions. Screen design begins with the recognition that the screw is composed of different areas. Layout tools assist the analysed in specifying the contents of a single or multiple design formats. It is helpful to divide the display screens into sections that are
consistently used in the same way to present information, identifications and messages to the user. In designing output screens, we need areas for (i) headings and titles, (ii) content of the display, (iii) messages and instructions and (iv) sometimes explanations for the information in the report. The headings and titles are positioned as the top portion of the screen, messages and instructions at the bottom, and explanations if needed, on the right-hand side. If only a very small amount of information is to be presented, it can be placed in the center of the screen or in the upper left quadrant. However, it is mainly a matter of preference of the concerned system analysts.