Designing for the end user

An Excel/VBA application can be anything from a small task that performs a useful service to a large application that completely shields the user from Excel's basic interface perhaps using a combination of forms and automatic macros. Excel and VBA provide many features for developers to build applications that cater for different types of end users. The VBA programmer will need to consider who will use the applications and what sort of skills and experience they have. For example, a novice user - such as a data entry clerk - may find dialog boxes more helpful than a raw worksheet. This type of system could well be designed in a foolproof manner. On the other hand, managers may find an interface that automates the presentation of data -such as by using charts and graphs - more suitable. Thus, when designing an appropriate interface with an Excel /VBA application, the following points should be considered:

What sort of interface should the application provide? Will it be appropriate for the end-users? This could turn out to b e more complex than it first appears because users are unlikely to be a simple homogenous group. For example, some may have very basic knowledge and others may be expert Excel users. Perhaps some sort of adaptable interface may be appropriate in this situation.

When a deliverable system contains macros, or user-defined functions, how will end users know that they exist? How will they find out how to use the macros? Will the system support these questions with Help, tutorials or training on how to use the macros provided by the application.

When a system contains macros how will they run them? Will they:

a) Use Tools > Macro > Macros... from Excel and then select it by name?

b) Use a button, or customised menu item?

c) Use some other method like a dialog box?

Is it possible or necessary to provide error checking and validation to help eliminate mistakes? Is it possible, or desirable, to lock and protect areas that need to be kept safe on the worksheet?

Will sufficient on-line context-sensitive Help be available. How will the end-user know where to find it? Will there be, for example, Help buttons visible on the worksheets or will messages be supplied by macros?

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