Currently I'm investigating about NCurses library for implement text user interface in C programming language.

Curiously today I went to a Car'ls Jr and and there was a monitor like this: enter image description here

Now, my question... is this a terminal application (TUI), why this kind of companies (fast food) use text based applications (it looks like 90s) and not a modern applications that the employees can watch and understand more quickly through images, and what are the technical advantage of using this kind of applications?.

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    The technical advantage is that after they created something flexible that works in the 90's they don't have to pay to do it again in the 21st century. Burgers haven't changed much since the 50's. You'll need a better argument than icons if you want to convince them you're new GUI ElectroMenu is going to be stable enough to not cost them more money than it saves. Nov 5, 2016 at 5:52
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    "Looking pretty" is apparently not a useful benefit in this application. As @CandidedOrange points out, there's no need to upgrade once you have a working system. You're used to seeing consumer-grade systems, where people change their cell phones, apps and social networks like they're changing their underwear. That doesn't happen in industrial processes. Nov 5, 2016 at 6:04
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    "Looking pretty" is apparently not a useful benefit in this application. Well, personally I do not speak Spanish, so I prefer to go the restaurant nearby which has a pretty looking user interface where I can see instantly the French fries icon instead of taking a dictionary with me to translate a long list of words until I find my fries. @RobertHarvey Nov 5, 2016 at 9:12
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    @BillalBEGUERADJ: Would you do that also if such a screen is only easily visible to the employees and not the customers? Usability/understandability for customers is not a requirement here, because the business does not expect its customers to understand what is shown on the screen. Nov 5, 2016 at 13:06
  • As any other users, employees need a cute GUI. Especially employees of restaurants who are usually under-paid :) @BartvanIngenSchenau Nov 5, 2016 at 15:20

1 Answer 1


First of all, that is an example of a GUI, not a TUI. Note that it uses proportional fonts with different sizes, and 3D borders. Second, note that this user interface is an information display – there's no user interaction here. And while it looks dated, the design is well done. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

The design uses a card metaphor to visualize a queue of orders. The oldest, most urgent order is at the top left, and shows the order number, elapsed time since the order was placed, and ordered items. At the bottom right, all items are aggregated into a list so that they can be prepared more efficiently. If there are seven orders on the display for wings, the cook doesn't have to count that themselves. They can see everything at a glance. This allows staff to answer their important questions immediately:

  • What item do I have to prepare next? Easy, look at the summary on the bottom right.
  • Who are these items for? Easy, look at the top-left card, collect the items, and deliver them to the customer with that number.

Would a more modern design help here? I doubt it. Aside from some colour choices (red on blue? ugh), it is very legible, contains little unnecessary information, and wouldn't really be that different. Here's a mockup inspired by the Material Design language:

A material design mockup. It still uses the card metaphor, but uses accent colors, and badges

Well, that does use badges, but wouldn't benefit from any icons or images. It really is the same thing as before. In fact, there's more wasted space now, and it is arguably more difficult to read at a glance (I'm not a good designer).

For new development, text UIs still have their place: Is the program used primarily by sysadmins over SSH? A GUI would be unhelpful there: terminal-based programs require less bandwidth and don't require a graphics stack on remote machines.

Some (older) text-based programs also have a significant following (vim, mutt, emacs, irssi, …). Due to their long history, they are often more feature-rich than GUI-based alternatives. Power-users also appreciate that they (by design) can do everything via keyboard shortcuts.

Aside from these factors, GUIs are far more flexible than TUIs, and not much more difficult to create. The big advantage of GUIs is that they can be more self-describing. Instead of having to memorize various shortcuts, users can see tooltips, navigate menus, click on icons, …. That's particularly friendly for casual users.

But these arguments don't apply with your example: there's no user input on that screen (I think), and the users of that interface are professional users. Sparing a couple of minutes to help them understand a high-information-density display is probably better than a low-information-density display that still needs some explanation.


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