The Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design

I have often been asked to distill the vast corpus of user interface design into a few key principles. While I was reluctant to do this, it turned out to be a good exercise to write “Golden Rules,” that are applicable in most interactive systems. These principles, derived from experience and refined over three decades, require validation and tuning for specific design domains. No list such as this can be complete, but even the original list from 1985, has been well received as a useful guide to students and designers. Jakob Nielsen, Jeff Johnson, and others have expanded these rules and included their variations, which enriches the discussion. Each edition of the book produces some changes. This version is from Section 3.3.4 of the Sixth edition:

Shneiderman, B., Plaisant, C., Cohen, M., Jacobs, S., and Elmqvist, N., Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction: Sixth Edition, Pearson (May 2016) http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/DTUI6


1. Strive for consistency.

Consistent sequences of actions should be required in similar situations; identical terminology should be used in prompts, menus, and help screens; and consistent color, layout, capitalization, fonts, and so on, should be employed throughout. Exceptions, such as required confirmation of the delete command or no echoing of passwords, should be comprehensible and limited in number

2. Seek universal usability.

Recognize the needs of diverse users and design for plasticity, facilitating transformation of content. Novice to expert differences, age ranges, disabilities, international variations, and technological 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, enriches the interface design and improves perceived quality.

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