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In today's article, Shneiderman Golden Rules Of Interface Design, we will discuss how Ben Shneiderman introduced the 8 golden rules, which big companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple are now using in their UI/UX designs.

This article will also cover the following subtopics:

Who is Dan Shneiderman

Dan Shneiderman is an American computer scientist and professor at the Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab whose famous for his work in his book titled, "Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction." 

In his book, Shneiderman introduced the eight golden rules of interface design, which became famous and comparable to Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen. 

His interests fall in the fields of Human-Computer Interaction, User Interface Design, and Information Visualization. 

Why use Shneiderman's 8 golden rules in design

In his book, The Upside of Irrationality, Dan Ariely said that humans rarely choose things in absolute terms. And thus, humans, as well as designers, need some set of standards or guidelines as a reference to follow or standards to rely on, or else, we will end up making arbitrary decisions. 

In the early years of interface design, there is much research to figure out how users interact with interfaces. These observations are written down to provide insights and guides for future designers. 

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And one of the famous research when it comes to interface design is Shneiderman's 8 golden rules of interface design. 

Shneiderman's eight golden rules of interface design

Rule 1 Strive for consistency

Consistency is one of the most important design factors that UX and UI designers should keep in mind. 

Designers should use similar design patterns and series of actions that resemble familiar human situations to maintain consistency or strive for consistency. 

Examples of consistent design patterns include color, typography, and terminology.

Based on Jakob's Law, they find users spend more of their time on other websites, which says more about their preference for consistency. 

This is why you need to design your website the same way all other websites are developed. This also means that design patterns such as navigation bars, breadcrumbs, forms, and even the layout of the site must adhere to a similar foundation.

If designers fail to apply consistency in their designs, it will result in users' cognitive load where users are forced to learn something new every time. 

Overall, it is always best to apply consistency in your design interface because it will allow users to complete their actions and achieve their end goals faster and easier. 

Rule 2 Enable frequent users to use shortcuts

When it comes to the types of users, we have two kinds: Experienced users and Inexperience users. 

Another essential rule to remember when it comes to interface design is to cater to both users. And an excellent way to do this for users to use shortcuts.

Experienced users can interact throughout the design and save time with shortcuts, and at the same time, inexperienced users will not struggle either. In general, using shortcuts can satisfy both types of users. 

Another way to assist both types of users is through customization of the UI features and settings. This way, you allow your users to decide how they want to use your product through the given customization options for them. 

You can provide your users default settings to follow, but if they feel like they should customize the settings based on their preferences, you give them options for situations where they think the default settings are hard to follow. You are giving users options to do something they are more comfortable with.  

For instructions that are too hard for your users, you may also provide your users simple instructions or visual cues for assistance. 

Like for example, first-time users can be provided with step-by-step guidelines to follow. You may also show users several types of templates and options that are available when they perform a particular task.

Rule 3 Offer informative feedback

When it comes to product design, it is a must to inform the user using feedback. And for every action your user does, there should be an offer informative feedback confirmation of these actions as well. This feedback must be informative as much as possible to avoid miscommunication or misunderstandings with your users. 

The user feedback should be meaningful, clear, and, most importantly, very relevant to the context. This is to assist the user with what's going on so they can take the right actions accordingly.

Avoid feedback with error codes. Humanize your messages so they will become readable and meaningful to the users. 

Rule 4 Design dialogue to yield closure

This rule on yield closure is about creating a series of actions from the beginning, middle, and the end. It also should provide feedback and options to the users to keep them informed about the current situation. 

Do not keep users guessing, and always notify your users of what is going on. 

Let us take an eCommerce website as an example. If you notice every action that the user does, it gives them a feedback until finally the process is completed. The user is notified with a message that goes something like this: "Thank you for purchasing with us."

Getting this final message as closure gives your users a sense of accomplishment. The sequence of actions should be consistent throughout the user's journey. It should also be well organized in the beginning, middle, and end. And remember, when the process is completed, your users should feel a sense of closure and accomplishment. Make sure you notify your users of these things.

Rule 5 Prevent Error / Offer simple error handling

Design a system that users cannot make serious errors. In case a user makes an error, the interface should detect that error and offer a simple, constructive, and specific instructions for recovery. 

Let us take the login error, for example. For login errors, you can say your error message as "Login Error Occurred: Wrong password. Try again." Then you can offer a password recovery option for the user. 

Rule 6 Permit easy reversal of actions

In the permit easy reversal, the actions available for the users should be reversible as much as possible. By doing this, you are easing the users of their burdens when an error or activity can be undone (easy reversal of actions). This also encourages exploration of unfamiliar options.

Examples of reversible actions are data entry tasks, the complete group of actions like entering the name and address block, etc. 

It is good to give users the option to undo their actions instead of letting them start over.  

Rule 7 Support internal locus of control

In the internal locus of control, make your users the initiators of actions instead of them as responders to the steps. Make them feel they are in charge of the interface and that the interface appropriately responds to their actions. 

For support internal locus, avoid the inability to obtain necessary information and the failure to produce an action for your users as these only trigger anxiety and dissatisfaction on your users' end.

Rule 8 Reduce short-term memory load

Remember that humans only have limits when it comes to short-term memory load. The rule of the thumb is humans can only remember seven plus or minus two chunks of information (memory load the limitation). Thus, it is essential to keep designs simple. 

This also goes back to our rule number 1, where the user interface should be kept consistent. The design interface should follow existing guidelines to help users remember and recognize the information rather than to recall them.

For example, when you want to add a search feature on your navigation bar, you can place a search icon that looks like a magnifying glass. The add icon can look like a + sign. The home icon resembles that of a real home. 

These familiar visuals are straightforward for users to recognize simply because they resemble real-world things and serve the same purpose. 

Final thoughts

Ben Shneiderman's 8 Golden Rules of Interface Design is a good design guideline or interface as this helps you design great, productive, and good user interfaces.

No wonder Shneiderman's golden rules are used by successful companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft. They make the interaction between computers and humans easy and hassle-free. 

The Shneiderman's eight golden rules are paramount in the design process and should be applied to every user interface design.

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Mary Ann Dalangin

About the author

A content marketing strategist and a UX writer with years of experience in the digital marketing industry.

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