Menu-Driven Interface: Definition & Examples

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Menus are useful for more than just fast-food restaurants. In this lesson, we'll explore a menu-driven interface, how it's used and where you might come into contact with one in real life.

Menu-Driven Interface

Let's just imagine that it's 3 PM and you've just gotten out of class. The hunger bug has hit you. Instead of heading straight home, you decide to pull through a fast-food drive-thru to grab a bite to eat. Except, when you get to the restaurant, there's no menu to help you decide what to get! Now what?

Fast-food menu boards, most equipped with pictures and writing of food offerings and new items, help the hungry masses decide what they want to eat. Another type of ''menu-driven'' display comes in handy in other areas of life, like kiosks, ATM machines, televisions, even smartphones. But, what does a menu-driven interface mean? Let's take a closer look.

A menu-driven interface is, simply, an easier way of navigating the devices and programs we interact with on a daily basis. It employs a series of screens, or ''menus,'' that allow users to make choices about what to do next. A menu-driven interface can use a list format or graphics, with one selection leading to the next menu screen, until the user has completed the desired outcome.

Menu-driven interfaces are preferred for their simplicity and user-friendly properties. Similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books, menu-driven interfaces let you choose one step that leads to another until you've finished all the steps and gotten what you needed. This allows you to accomplish such tasks as getting cash from an ATM machine, getting information from a kiosk or arriving at the proper section of your smartphone properties to connect to a coffee shop's wifi.

Menu-driven interfaces differ from something known as a command line interface, which uses prompts into which a user must enter a response or command. Users then have to wait for the system to respond to the command entered and be prompted to enter the next command. It's sort of like having an instant message conversation with your computer! This type of interface is particularly common among computer programmers who use a Windows-based computer's ''Command Prompt'' or a Mac's ''Terminal'' application to tell the computer what to do.

Menu-Driven Interfaces in Real Life

So, where might you see a menu-driven interface? Consider the following:

ATMs

Tom wants to grab $20 from his bank's ATM before he has lunch with his colleagues. He leaves his office and walks across the street to the bank. At the ATM, he inserts his card and enters his password. Up pops a series of menu choices Tom can use to withdraw his money.

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