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Shneiderman's Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design were first introduced by Ben Shneiderman in his 1986 book "Designing the User Interface". This book provides a set of guidelines for designing effective user interfaces, which are still relevant today.

In this article, we will discuss more why we should follow these rules. We as humans and designers need some standards to rely on, and some guidelines seek universal usability to follow so we can make choices or we will end up making random decisions.

This article will cover the following subtopics:

Who is the author of these 8 rules of interface design?

Ben Shneiderman is a computer scientist and professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.

He is a pioneer in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) and information visualization and is known for developing numerous important concepts, methods, and tools in these areas.

Shneiderman is particularly famous for his work on information visualization techniques such as treemaps and dynamic queries, as well as for his development of the direct manipulation interface paradigm, which emphasizes the importance of user control and responsiveness in interface design.

Shneiderman has also written many influential books on HCI and visualization, including "Designing the User Interface" and "Information Visualization: Design for Interaction".

He has received numerous awards for his contributions to the field, including the ACM CHI Lifetime Achievement Award and the IEEE Visualization Career Award.

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In his famous book "Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction", Shneiderman identified these 8 golden rules of interface design.

Shneiderman has proposed one such idea from his experience, which, after it is done, is high, and explained, necessary for the social process.

The 8 golden rules of user interface design

For some people, designing a user interface (UI) or website might appear to be an exercise in creativity and innovative thinking. However, it is crucial to base design solutions on a set of rules that optimize the entire design process. One such set of guidelines is Ben Shneiderman’s eight golden rules of user-interface design.

Shneiderman, a pioneer in the field of human-computer interaction, developed these eight golden rules after conducting fundamental research. Although he defined these rules in 1985, their timelessness has ensured that they are still widely used by designers of applications and websites worldwide.

The purpose of Shneiderman's eight golden rules is to assist designers in problem-solving, and they serve as heuristics to enhance usability. To achieve "user-friendliness," an interface must be well-designed.

1. Strive for consistency

This rule emphasizes the importance of creating a consistent design throughout the interface. Consistency means that similar actions or words should always have the same meaning and result, which helps users recognize patterns, reduces the need to learn new operations, and creates a more intuitive interface.

Designers can achieve consistency by using the same terminology, icons, and symbols throughout the interface. They should also ensure that similar features and functions are located in the same place and that similar actions have the same outcome.

Consistency creates a sense of familiarity and reliability for the user, which leads to a more positive user experience. This golden rule is crucial for making interfaces that are easy to learn and use, and for reducing the user's cognitive load when interacting with a system.

As you can see, Instagram's design has been consistent from 2009 to 2020, with its Feed Layout style and navbar icons staying consistent.

2. Enable frequent users to use shortcuts

The enable frequent users rule recognizes that experienced users often want to work more efficiently and may prefer to use shortcuts to perform frequent and minor actions more quickly.

Designers should provide shortcuts to frequently used actions or functions that experienced users can learn and use to increase their productivity. Shortcuts can be achieved through keyboard shortcuts, mouse gestures, or other input mechanisms that allow users to bypass menus and dialogue boxes. Providing shortcuts allows users to work more efficiently, save time, and have a more positive experience with the interface.

You should think about incorporating features for advanced users and for beginners for example, with keyboard shortcuts or macro facilities, as for example with Canva which allows its users to use shortcuts to copy and paste.

However, it is important to note that shortcuts should not be the only way to access features or functions in an interface. New or less experienced users may not be familiar with the shortcuts, and it is essential to ensure that all functionality is still accessible through traditional methods such as menus or dialogue boxes. By providing shortcuts, designers can enhance the usability and efficiency of the interface for frequent users, while still catering to the needs of all users.

3. Offer informative feedback

This offer informative feedback rule emphasizes the importance of providing feedback to users to let them know what is happening in the system and how their actions are being interpreted by the interface.

Feedback can be in the form of visual, auditory, or tactile responses, and it should provide users with clear and timely information about the results of their actions. Informative feedback helps users feel more in control and confident while interacting with the system, reduces uncertainty and errors, and enhances the overall user experience.

Designers can provide informative feedback in many ways, such as changing the color or shape of a button when it is clicked, displaying a progress bar or animation when a process is taking place, or playing a sound effect when a task is completed. The feedback should be clear, concise, and presented in a way that is easy to understand, so users can quickly interpret the response and take appropriate actions if necessary.

By offering informative feedback, designers can make the user interface more user-friendly, efficient, and satisfying for users. This golden rule is crucial for creating interfaces that are easy to use and that provide a positive experience for the user.

The breadcrumb navigation is a great example of how it works. Each subsequent element in the trail narrows down the categories for the users to navigate through the website. In this case, the trail is "Products > Furniture > Sofas > Fabric Sofas > Three-seat sofas > EKTORP 3-seat sofa," and it effectively guides users to a specific product on Ikea's website.

Offer informative feedback

Because Ikea's website is vast and complex, it is essential to keep users informed of their location within the website. Additionally, each of the breadcrumb navigation elements should be clickable links to allow users to easily return to any of the previous levels.

For every operator action, there should be some system feedback. For frequent and minor actions, the response can be modest, while for infrequent and major actions, the response should be more substantial.

4. Design dialog to yield closure

This rule emphasizes the importance of providing users with a sense of closure when interacting with the system, particularly in situations where the user needs to make a decision or complete a task.

Designers should design dialog boxes that clearly state the purpose of the dialog and provide clear and concise information to the user. The dialog should be designed in a way that enables the user to make a decision or complete a task, and it should provide clear feedback about the outcome of the action taken.

Dialog boxes should also provide a clear indication that the action is complete and the user can move on to the next step. This can be achieved through feedback messages, progress bars, or other visual cues that indicate the task is complete.

By designing dialogs to yield closure, designers can provide users with a clear understanding of the purpose of the dialog and what action is required. This helps users make informed decisions and feel in control of the system. Additionally, by providing a sense of closure, users can move on to the next step in the workflow with confidence, which enhances the overall user experience.

5. Offer Simple Error Handling

This rule emphasizes the importance of designing error messages and handling errors in a way that is simple, clear, and understandable to the user.

Error handling is an essential aspect of user interface design since it is impossible to create a system that is completely error-free. Therefore, it is crucial to design error messages that are clear, concise, and provide enough information to help the user resolve the issue.

Designers should aim to make error messages easy to understand and avoid using technical jargon or confusing language. The message should clearly state what went wrong and provide actionable steps the user can take to correct the error. The message should also be presented in a visually distinct way, so it is immediately noticeable to the user.

Designers should also consider providing feedback messages that inform the user when an error has been resolved. These messages should confirm that the problem has been fixed and provide any additional information that may be needed.

By offering simple error handling, designers can help users to quickly and easily understand and resolve errors. This can reduce frustration and confusion for the user and enhance the overall user experience. In summary, it is essential to design error messages that are clear, concise, and actionable, and to provide feedback messages that confirm the error message has been resolved.

6. Permit easy reversal of actions

This permit easy reversal rule emphasizes the importance of designing interfaces that allow users to undo or reverse their actions easily.

Designers should design interfaces or a feature relieves anxiety that provides clear and easily accessible options to undo or reverse action. This can be achieved through the use of buttons, menu items, or keyboard shortcuts that allow the user to reverse the last action taken. Additionally, designers should consider providing a history or activity log that allows users to review previous actions and undo them as needed.

For example, the undo and redo function in Gmail serves to be very usable.

By providing easy reversal of actions, designers can help users feel in control of the system and reduce the likelihood of errors or mistakes. This can also help users to explore the system and experiment with different options without the fear of making irreversible changes.

It's important to note that providing easy reversal of actions should not be a substitute for a clear and concise design. Instead, it should be used as a safety net to help users recover from mistakes or unintended actions.

This feature relieves anxiety because of the importance of designing interfaces that allow users to undo or reverse their actions easily. By providing this feature, designers can help users feel in control and reduce the likelihood of an error message or mistakes.

7. Keep the User in Control (Support internal locus of control)

This rule also known as support internal locus of control rule, emphasizes the importance of designing interfaces that give users a sense of control and ownership over the system.

Designers should design interfaces that allow users to easily navigate and interact with the system. Users should be able to start, pause, or stop a process at any time, and the system should respond quickly and predictably to their actions. Additionally, designers should provide clear and concise feedback to help users understand the consequences of their actions.

Another aspect of "keeping the user in control" is to design interfaces that respect users' preferences and allow them to customize the system to their needs. This can be achieved through the use of preferences, settings, and other personalization options that allow users to set their own defaults and adjust the system to their individual needs.

A good example of this is the ability to mute or eliminate pop-up notifications. You can see the options the YouTube application provides to give users control over alerts. Users can decide whether they want to receive notifications about new videos appearing on the channels they watch. If they do, they can also specify the extent of these notifications.

Keep the User in Control

By keeping the user in control, designers can help users feel more comfortable and confident in using the system. This can lead to a better user experience and increased user satisfaction. Additionally, users who feel in control are more likely to use the system more frequently and explore its full range of features and capabilities.

This rule emphasizes the importance of designing interfaces that give users a sense of control and ownership over the system. By providing users with clear and concise feedback, respecting their preferences, and allowing them to easily navigate and interact with the system, designers can help create a better user experience and increase user satisfaction.

8. Reduce Short-Term Memory Load

This rule emphasizes the importance of designing interfaces that minimize the amount of information users need to remember in order to complete a task.

Designers should design interfaces that provide clear and concise instructions, labels, and feedback, so users don't have to rely on their short-term memory to remember what they need to do next. This can be achieved through the use of consistent and meaningful icons, clear and concise language, and well-organized layouts that guide users through the process.

Another aspect of "reducing short-term memory load" is to design interfaces that allow users to easily retrieve and review the information that they have already entered or accessed. This can be achieved through the use of history logs, search features, and other tools that allow users to quickly find and access previously entered information.

Reduce Short-Term Memory Load

By reducing short-term memory load, designers can help users complete tasks more efficiently and accurately, without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. This can lead to a better user experience and increased user satisfaction. Additionally, interfaces that minimize short-term memory load are more likely to be used more frequently and recommended to others.

The takeaway

Despite being formulated over three decades ago, Shneiderman's golden rules of user-interface design remained to be in universal usability due to its relevance and value today. They provide a solid foundation for improving the usability and quality of user-interface designs and for reducing user errors. However, since these rules are general theoretical principles, it's important to interpret and adapt them to the specific contexts in which you work.

Fortunately, our article has provided practical examples that demonstrate how Shneiderman's principles can be applied in daily user interface and web design practice. By following these examples and adapting them to your own unique needs and circumstances, you can make your designs more effective and user-friendly. Always keep in mind that good design is an iterative process that involves continual refinement and improvement, so be open to feedback and willing to make changes as necessary to ensure the best possible user experience.

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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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