The Eight Rules of Interface Design

Academics and rule books. I do favour these. Being from an art college there is an impression on me that learn the rules and then forget them. These pointers stick in your head and you might notice applying that knowledge in your work even when you are not aware of them.

But in the field of UI design everything is so new and developing that we cannot say for sure that follow this course and become a successful UX designer. There have been some notable thinkers who have paved the way for us. But, it’s still an emerging science. Also, a lot of the part of a UX curriculum is usually known to designers through the wide network of information out there. Someone would say all these rules and theory is quite obvious but doesn’t hurt to go through the textbook at times.

So, in that spirit, wanted to share these eight golden rules of interface design by Ben Schneiderman which I honestly think would help you in a situation of crisis.

01.

STRIVE FOR CONSISTENCY

The essence of this rule is strive for consistency in everything. This includes, typography, color, spacing, imagery, content writing style and everything that is a part of your design. This will ensure that it is easier for the users to navigate thorough the UI in a seamless way and help focus on the task they came to your site for. It creates a confident impression on your audience.

Google’s material design is a great example of this principle.

material-design

The material design guidelines not only serve for the UI elements, but also focuses on consistency with UI animations, writing style and a lot more.

Develop a single underlying system that allows for a unified experience across platforms and device sizes.

 

02.

ENABLE FREQUENT USERS TO USE SHORTCUTS

Empowering frequent users with more control over interactions by proving shortcuts to complete the task faster.

For example for unlocking a smart phone, there are tons of options available to the users as per their requirement and level of expertise. A novice user might not want to use passcode to lock his screen, whereas an experienced user might use the lock feature to lock not just his SmartPhone screen, but also few apps.

apple-touch-id

Apple has introduced touch ID passcode for experienced users

03.

OFFER INFORMATIVE FEEDBACK

The user should never be confused as to where she is in the system or what is happening. For all interactions there should be a clear response. The feedback can be as simple as a sound playing after you have copied a file in your computer or more explanatory for a major task.

For example when you copy large files on mac, there is a dialog box indicating the progress of the task, time remaining and amount of data copied. There is also a visual feedback in the folder where the file is copied. The progress indicator displays the progress of the task and a faded out color for the file indicates its not yet completely copied.

copy-example1

Dialouge box with copying information

copy-example

visual feedback informing the progress in the folder where a file is copied

 

04.

DESIGN DIALOGUE TO YIELD CLOSURE

Sequences of actions should be organised into a group of actions which have a beginning, middle and end. The users should be provided with a clear information after a parent task consisting of all the small tasks is complete. For example in a e-commerce website, while providing an instant feedback for every step in purchase, a final closure screen informing users about the details of the purchase and a thank you note is a dialogue of closure. This gives users the satisfaction of accomplishment and makes them ready to perform the next set of actions.

yield-closure

Amazon presents users with a closure screen after the checkout process is completed

 

 

05.

PREVENT ERRORS

The system should be designed to prevent against errors, but even if some unavoidable errors occur, the user should be provided with an instructive and easy approach to handle the error.

sign-up

There is a clear feedback on the Apple ID sign up page for every step. The feedback while entering password is more detailed providing information if all the three requirements are met.

06.

PERMIT EASY REVERSAL OF ACTIONS

There should be a ways in the system to reverse the actions for a user. This will give them a sense of control and encourage to explore different options in your system. This can be applied for a single action or a complete set of actions. For example while completing a sign up form, if the users do not fill in one field correctly they should not have to complete the full form again.

This feature relieves anxiety, since the user knows that errors can be undone; it thus encourages exploration of unfamiliar options.

sign-up-error2

Apple’s Sign Up form provides easy reversal of actions

 

 

07.

SUPPORT INTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL

Experienced users strongly expect more control over the interface. It’s a good way to earn the users trust by designing the system to behave the way the users expect. Inability to produce desired results leads to frustration and annoyance in users.

quit

Apple provides the option for users to Force Quit an application to provide complete control to the user in case the app is not performing properly or it crashes.

 

08.

REDUCE SHORT-TERM MEMORY LOAD

We humans are capable of maintaining around 5 items in our short-term memory. The interface design should take this into account while designing tasks that require users to remember information and use it later. This requires that the users are provided with enough training time to perform sequence of actions. A helpful idea is to design simple interfaces with proper information hierarchy and choosing recognition over recall. Recognition is always easier than recalling because it provides cues to reach the memory and allow it resurface.

amazon

Amazon’s checkout screen distributes the complete task into a sequence of actions to make the experience easier

SUMMING-UP

Though these rules serve as a good pointers, the key is how you apply them according to your projects.

 

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