Blog articles

Interface management - different things to different people

Understanding the management of interfaces in mega-projects can be difficult enough - with the same terms being used to mean different things, and different terms being used to mean the same thing - see our guide to interface terms...
... BUT it can be even more confusing for people new to the subject because people love the word interface - and it gets used in so many other ways.

At the basic level, an interface is a connection between two things that interact with each other - which can be anything.

Making an RS-232 interface work between a computer and a printer was a black art. Soldering iron on the back of a connector - a real hardware interface.

In web design the GUI (sounds like goo-ey) or Graphical User Interface is key to success or failure - if people look at your web page and wonder what they are supposed to do then you ought to know about Don't Make Me Think.

More generally, HMI or Human Machine Interface covers the field of presenting information from a machine in a form that is easily understandable to a human - typically on a display screen. The same process in the opposite direction sometimes has the human banging the computer screen with a mouse to describe the human's frustration.

Between software systems that need to understand each other - to use data from one system in the other system - developers need to agree a framework that defines the data types and how to transfer it. They may call it a schema (for example xml and web services) or an interface (for example java).

Closer to home, reading contract documents the word 'interface' is peppered through - sometimes hundreds of times, but nothing to do with interface management. How about 'fork lift interface'? - that would be where you put the forks of a fork lift truck to pick up a piece of equipment, of course.

And if you go to - well, they sell carpet tiles.
It is a complicated world out there - with lots of interfaces!