7 Golden Rules of Interface Design
Before we get into those rules, we should know “Why should we follow these rules?” As Dan Ariely said in his book “predictably irrational” that “Humans rarely choose things in absolute terms”. We as humans and designers need some standards to rely on, some guidelines to follow so we can make choices or we will end up making random decisions. So, earlier interface designers did years of research and figured out how users interact with interfaces and they have tried to write down these guidelines to record their insights and guide the efforts of future designers. Ben Shneiderman (born August 21, 1947) is an American computer scientist and professor at the University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab. In his famous book “Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction”, Shneiderman revealed these 8 golden rules of interface design.
1.Strive for consistency
Consistent sequences of actions should be required in similar situations. Consistency helps users to achieve their goals and navigate through your app easily. when a UI works consistently, it becomes predictable (in a good way), which means users can understand how to use certain functions intuitively and without instruction and as an interface designer you should remember that your user is not using your product only, they are getting ideas, expectations, and building intuition from lots of different products. Things can go south very easily and can frustrate our users if our design is inconsistent and not familiar to users. Just imagine having two hamburger menus and a search bar at the bottom or the “Delete” button highlighted in green.
2.Cater to universalizability
Recognize the needs of diverse users and design, facilitating the transformation of content. Novice-expert differences, age ranges, disabilities, and technology diversity each enrich the spectrum of requirements that guides design. Adding features for novices, such as explanations, and features for experts, such as shortcuts and faster pacing, can enrich the interface design and improve perceived system quality. Let’s see how Instagram helps different types of users according to their experience so they can carry out tasks successfully without any anxiety. For the novice or first time user, Instagram provides visual cues and instruction to help first time users as shown in the figure below.
For experienced or frequent users, Instagram has this shortcut feature where you press and hold on the profile icon and you can switch between your accounts without even going to the profile page.
3.Design dialogue to yield closure
Informative feedback after a group of actions gives operators the satisfaction of accomplishment, a sense of relief, the signal to drop contingency plans from their minds, and a signal to prepare for the next group of actions. Your user should not spend any time in figuring out what is going on, tell them what their action has led them to. A classic example would be, e-commerce web sites move users from selecting products to the checkout, ending with a clear confirmation page that completes the transaction.
4.Prevent Error / Offer simple error handling
As much as possible, design the system such that users cannot make serious errors; If a user makes an error, the interface should detect the error and offer simple, constructive, and specific instructions for recovery. For example: error message for incorrect username at the Instagram login page.
5.Permit easy reversal of actions
As much as possible, actions should be reversible. This feature relieves anxiety since the user knows that errors can be undone, thus encouraging the exploration of unfamiliar options. The units of reversibility may be a single action, a data-entry task, or a complete group of actions, such as entry of a name and address block. Allow your user to undo the action instead of starting over. For example: the drawing function in Instagram stories, it provides an undo function.
6.Support internal locus of control
Experienced operators strongly desire the sense that they are in charge of the interface and that the interface responds to their actions. Surprising interface actions, tedious sequences of data entries, inability to obtain or difficulty in obtaining necessary information, and inability to produce the action desired all build anxiety and dissatisfaction. Make users the initiators of actions rather than the responders to actions.
7.Reduce short-term memory load
The limitation of human information processing in short-term memory (the rule of thumb is that humans can remember “seven plus or minus two chunks” of information) requires that displays be kept simple. Keeping our interface consistent and following the existing guidelines for interface design will help us to make our design more intuitive so our user doesn’t have to recall every time he/she uses the product. It’s simpler for us to recognize information rather than recall it.
These rules will always help you to design a more intuitive interface and will provide a good starting point for interface designers. Try to find out if your everyday apps use these rules or not.