This is a call for inspiration, as I don't seem to find any beautiful web-based UI that deals with complex actions and visualizations out there on the web.

I'm designing a (web-based) digital interface that supports facility management tasks and enhances decision-making using zone-based visualizations of people and facilities in indoors environments — this will be used by organizations to improve their customer support and enhance their profits in a variety of ways.

So what are examples of complex digital interfaces?

My own Sketches, in order to help understanding what I'm after:

enter image description here

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    Your question is vague and too broad, I think. You'll get more and better answers if you, say, come up with a design idea or two for group actions, and then ask for comments or more ideas regarding that. – Hisham Feb 15 '11 at 18:15
  • Although I would be interested to follow along as people answer; it would be interesting to see how you solve your set of problems. – David in Dakota Feb 15 '11 at 20:15
  • I'm taking a slight different approach to my problem: I'm trying to understand how and what are complex UIs — like in network analysis, facility management, stock exchange monitoring, real-time tracking, etc. How do they look like? – João Feb 15 '11 at 21:57

Look at the components you are using/designing and THEN look for apps where that component is pivotal for success of that app. I see

  • A timeline (ruler). Look at Ableton Live (an audio app). In this app the timeline is the central feature, and the app has well developed ideas on selection, panning, zooming and annotation.
  • 3D charts; cross sections. Look at second half of video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUsrdpXYDwU&feature=player_embedded#at=52 In this seismology app the cross-sections are central. Also see google images search for "Seismic Tomography".
  • A Tree. The tree apps I found in a search were concerned with the making of dendrograms or family trees, not their use. Best I came up with in a brief search was http://vis.stanford.edu/protovis/ex/ for some beautiful and flexible presentations of hierarchies.

So in sum, I'd suggest you ask more detailed questions about your components. Answers to each one will lead you to applications that use those components in an integrated way.


The catch is that 'complex' is usually a sign of BAD UI. Good UI and Complex UI are usually not compatible concepts.

That said, perhaps something like Google Maps is a place to start. Google maps hides an amazing amount of functionality and data behind a relatively simply interface.

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    Complex ain't bad, and usually cannot be avoided. Complex = composed of many interconnected parts; compound; composite. Complicated = difficult to analyze, understand, explain. – Marjan Venema Feb 16 '11 at 7:16
  • I'd have to agree with Marjan. Complex doesn't mean bad. Actually, complexity is unavoidable when dealing with network analysis, facility management and tracking systems like the one I'm trying to design. – João Feb 16 '11 at 11:27
  • No, it doesn't MEAN bad. It usually is a SIGN of a bad UI. A big part of UI design is to boil down the complexity into a manageable interaction. While the task at hand may be complex, the interface should strive to not be when at all possible. – DA01 Feb 16 '11 at 14:52

Hans Rosling's Gapminder World packs in an amazing amount of data and numerous ways to interact with it in a simple and very useable manner. It has loads of connections between data points visualized in a very engaging manner.

On a side note, his TED talks are also pretty good.

  • Thanks. I'm quite familiar with Hans Rosling's work, but I'd say his pet project Gapminder World deals with complex datasets rather than complex interfaces. Actually, it's quite a simple and easy going UI. – João Feb 17 '11 at 16:25

So what are examples of complex digital interfaces?

I'm reminded of the 3D interfaces which allow users to 'fly through' data - as it says here, 'fsn' was used in the film Jurassic Park:


Screenshot about half way down this:


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