05-830, User Interface Software, Spring, 2001
Lecture 3, January 22, 2001
Copyright © 2001 - Brad Myers

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User Interface Guidelines

Attributes of good UIs:

1) Invisible
2) Minimal training requirements (easy to learn)
3) High transfer of training (easy to remember)
4) Predictability
5) Few errors
6) Easy to recover from errors ("forgiving")
7) People perform real tasks well (efficient to use)
8) It is flexible
9) It is intelligent
10) People like it (subjectively pleasing)
11) ... and many others

Usability Slogans
(Jakob Nielsen, "Usability Engineering", ch 1)

More slogans

1) Things that look different should act different.
2) If it is not needed, it's not needed.
3) The information for the decision needs to be there when the decision is needed.
4) The user should control the system. The system shouldn't control the user. The user is the boss, and the system should show it.
5) The idea is to empower the user, not speed up the system.
6) Don't overload the user's buffers.
7) Keep it simple.
8) Things that look the same should act the same.
9) The user should be able to do what the user wants to do.
10) Every action should have a reaction.
11) Everything in its place, and a place for everything.
12) Let people shape the system to themselves, and paint it with their own personality.
13) Error messages should actually mean something to the user, and tell the user how to fix the problem.
14) The best journey is the one with the fewest steps. Shorten the distance between the user and their goal.
15) Everyone makes mistakes, so every mistake should be fixable.
16) The more you do something, the easier it should be to do.
17) Cute is not a good adjective for systems.
18) Keep it neat. Keep it organized.
19) Consistency, consistency, consistency.
20) The user should always know what is happening.
21) Minimize the need for a mighty memory.
22) Know thy user, and YOU are not thy user.
23) If I made an error, at least let me finish my thought before I have to fix it.
24) Design for regular people and the real world.
25) Eliminate unnecessary decisions, and illuminate the rest.
26) You should always know how to find out what to do next.
27) If I made an error, let me know about it before I get into REAL trouble.
28) Even experts are novices at some point. Provide help.
29) Provide a way to bail out and start over.
30) Don't let people accidentally shoot themselves.
31) Color is information.
32) The user should be in a good mood when done.
33) The fault is not in thyself, but in thy system.
34) To know the system is to love it.
35) Deliver a model and stick to it.
36) Follow platform conventions.
37) Make it hard for people to make errors.
38) The system status (i.e., what's going on) should always be visible.
39) Accommodate individual differences among users through automatic adaptation or user tailoring of the interface.
40) Make it easy for a beginner to become an expert.
41) No you can't just explain it in the manual.
42) Provide user documentation that is easy to search, focused on the user's task, lists concrete steps to be carried out, and is not too large.
43) The system should speak the users' language, following real-world conventions.
44) Instructions for use of a system should be visible or easily retrievable.
45) What does marketing think it wants? Ok, now how do we show them they're wrong?
46) What does management think it wants? Ok, now how do we show them they're wrong?
47) Allow users to tailor frequent actions.
48) Users don't know what they want, and users can't always say what they know.
49) Roll the videotape.
50) Common sense is an uncommon commodity.
51) Make objects, actions, and options visible.
52) Data drives good design.
53) Help users develop a conceptual representation of the structure of the system.
54) Minimize the amount of information a user must maintain in short-term memory.
55) It's a jungle. Be careful out there.
56) People should not have to remember information across a dialogue.
57) Make it impossible to make errors that will get the user into REAL trouble.
58) Dialogues should not contain information that is irrelevant or rarely needed.
59) Testing, testing, testing.
60) Keep the user mental workload within acceptable limits.
61) Minimize the amount of information recoding that is necessary.
62) Minimize the difference in dialogue both within and across interfaces.
63) An ounce of good design is worth a pound of technical support.
64) Provide the user with feedback and error-correction capabilities.
65) So how is this better than what the competition is doing?
66) Provide good error messages that are expressed in plain language, precisely indicate the probem, and constructively suggest a solution.
67) Whadya mean, they're not all computer scientists?
68) Support undo and redo.
69) Different words, situations, or actions should result in different things happening.
70) The best user interface is one the user doesn't notice.

Guidelines for good UIs:

  1. Use Iterative design
  2. Give the user a mental model of the system
  3. Good Graphic Design and Color Choice
  4. Less is More ("keep it simple")
  5. Speak the User's Language
  6. Use appropriate Mappings and Metaphors
  7. Minimize User Memory Load
  8. Be consistent
  9. Provide appropriate feedback
  10. Clearly marked Exits
  11. Prevent errors
  12. Good error messages
  13. Provide Shortcuts
  14. Minimize modes
  15. Help the user get started with the system
  16. Use cognitive directness
  17. Accommodate individual differences

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