I'm going to change gears a bit and talk about user interfaces (UIs), particularly LabVIEW panels. Some of you may have seen me co-present "the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" with Greg McKaskle at NI Week. We've given tips and tricks for UI design, some of which are general design principles and some of which are specific to LabVIEW. I've gotten a request for a new LabVIEW UI Design presentation, so I'm going to review some of the material here, and hopefully get feedback on what parts people find valuable.
UIs can be the most challenging part of a project, because by definition they deal with that most variable of variables: people.
I find that UI design is full of guidelines and heuristics, with few unbreakable rules. And there are good reasons for that. There are a lot of factors to consider when designing an interface.
I can't look at a snapshot of a panel and tell you if the UI is good or not. No one can. A user interface is much more than whether or not the panel "looks good."
You have to know who is using the panel and what she's trying to accomplish with it. Because, in the end, a good user interface is one where the user gets her task done and is satisifed with the experience.
You also need to know where the interface is being used (e.g. desktop or manufacturing floor?) and how the user operates it (e.g. keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen?).
Making a panel "pretty" should actually be the last step in UI development. You can invest time and money making a panel very attractive, but not everyone who uses LabVIEW is going to find that investment worthwhile.