Principles of UI, A Thread:
1. natural mapping
2. visibility of system state
3. discoverability
4. constraints and affordances
5. habits and spatial memory
6. locus of attention
7. no modes
8. fast feedback
9. do not cause harm to a user's data or through inaction allow user data to come to harm
10. prefer undo to confirmation boxes. For actions that can't be undone, force a "cooling off" period of at least 30 seconds.
11. measure using Fitt's, Hick's, GOMS, etc. but always test with real users.

12. don't assume that your skills or knowledge of computers as a designer or programmer in any way resemble the skills or knowledge of your users.

13. Consider the natural order of tasks in a flow of thought. Verb-Noun vs. Noun verb. Dependency->Dependants vs. Dependants->Dependencies.

14. Instead of having noob mode and advanced mode, use visual and logical hierarchies to organise functions by importance.

15. Everything is an interface, the world, learning new things, even perception itself


16. Consider the psychology of panic. Panic kills scuba divers, panic kills pilots. panic kills soldiers. panic loses tennis matches. Panic leads to stupid mistakes on a computer.
more at:!.h

17. Consider the 3 important limits of your user's patience:
0.1 second, 1 second, 10 seconds

18. An interface whose human factors are well considered, but looks like butt, still trumps an interface that looks slick but is terrible to use. An interface that is well considered AND looks good trumps both, and is perceived by users to work better than the same exact interface with an ugly design.

19. Don't force the user to remember things if you can help it. Humans are really bad at remembering things. This includes passwords, sms codes, sums, function names, and so on. My own personal philosophy is to consider humans a part of your system, and design around our shortcomings instead of thinking of users as adversaries. Software should serve humans, humans shouldn't serve software.

20. Some Sources:
Donald Norman
Jef Raskin
Jacob Nielsen
Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini

I recommend all the talks by Alan Kay and Bret Victor, here's two:

Doing with Images Makes Symbols
The Future Of Programming

The first 8 items of this thread are extremely terse, to the point of being meaningless on their own. Please use them as search terms, or ask me to expand on them when my dog isn't barking at me to go to bed.

21. Gall’s Law:
A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.

22. show, don’t tell. lengthy tutorials and “protips” forced on the user at app start usually do nothing other than get in the way of the user’s task. if you want to teach the user about a feature, include easy to find examples.

23. don’t interrupt flow of thought. if a user is opening an application, they usually have some specific task to complete. nagging them at this point in time about software updates or handy tips is very user hostile.

24.many jokes are made about the “save” icon looking like a floppy disk. it’s very appropriate, since the command as a concept is built around the technological limits of floppy disks, limits that are comically irrelevant in the 21st century.drag your app out of the 1980s and implement autosave and version control already.

25. consistency consistently consistent. there’s few things more fun than designing your own custom ui widget toolkit, css framework, or interaction paradigm. however, please strongly consider *not* doing this. custom UI is like ugly baby photos. instead, stick as much to the HIG guidelines and conventions of the platform you are on, so users can use what they’ve already learned about where things usually are, and what the fuck the weird molecule icon does.

26. try to imagine ways to use your shiny new software to abuse, harass, stalk, or spy on people, especially vulnerable people. ask a diverse range of people to do the same.
then fix it so you can’t. if you cannot figure out how to do your special software thing without opening vulnerable people to abuse, consider not making it available to anyone.

27. UX is ergonomics of the mind (and also body). Where traditional ergonomics considers the physical abilities and limits of a human body, UX considers the limits of the human mind: attention, memory, response time, coordination, emotions, patience, stamina, knowledge, subconscious, and so on. If you ever find a UX practitioner sacrificing accessibility on the altar of so called “good experiences”, you are dealing with incompetence.

expanding on 1. Natural Mapping:
user interfaces typically “map” to the system they control, each button and dial corresponding to some element of the system. Natural mapping is when the interface forms an obvious spatial relationship to the system, such as 4 stovetop dials that are in the same arrangement as the stovetops. the anti-pattern is arranging controls in an arbitrary order with no spatial correspondence to the system.

2. Visibility of System State:
Software typically has state (to state the obvious), such as “where” you are in the software’s menu system, what “mode” you are currently in. whether your work is safely stored on disk or has “unsaved changes”, what stage of a process you are up to and how many steps are left. Failure to effectively communicate system state to the user is inviting them to get lost and make mistakes. counterexamples: setting the time on a digital wrist watch, programming a VCR

3. Discoverability
this is about making the possible actions in a system visible- or if not immediately visible, the mechanism of their discovery should be visible and consistent. For instance, the menu items in a GUI system are discoverable. the available commands in a unix system are not. the opposite of this principle is “hidden interface”, examples of hidden interface are rife in iOS: tapping the top of the screen for “scroll to top”, shake to undo, swipe from edge for browser back- etc.

4. Constraints and Affordances.
A constraint is something that is not possible in a system. an affordance is something that is possible to do. which is which should be communicated clearly- the nature of this communication breaks down into three subcategories:
a. physical:
visually obvious from the shape of objects in a system- two lego bricks can only snap together in a limited number of ways.
b. logical: what’s possible or not makes sense logically: e.g. color coding,
c. cultural

constraints and affordances is at the heart of the “flat design” vs. “skeumorphism” debate. the benefit of skeumorphic interfaces is that replicating the look of real world objects like buttons, provides a natural way to communicate interactions. where skeumorphism went wrong is communicating false affordances: a detail in the ios6 calendar app hinting that pages could be torn out- when no interaction supported it.
flat design throws the baby out with the bathwater. we still need real buttons.

5. Habits and Spatial Memory
this is mostly about not arbitrarily moving around.buttons in an interface. people are creatures of habit, and if you fundamentally change the method of performing a task for no good reason, it’s not a “UI revamp” it’s pointlessly frustrating your existing users.
for spatial memory, millions of years of evolution have left us with mental machinery for remembering exactly *where* something is physically. you can take advantage of this in UI with persistence of space.

an example of this persistence of space concept is the meticulous way some people curate their phone’s launch screens. even better would be if iOS allowed a different wallpaper for each page, and for icon grids to permit gaps anywhere instead of forcing them to sort left to right, top to bottom. the different look of each screen could then be very personal and memorable. Finding an app, then, a matter of finding the page with the right color and shape.

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@nindokag thanks. it’s basically my cliff’s noted from doing a lot of reading. hmm, I try my best to give credit where credit is due. hmm, #17. is an expansion of #8. oops. I should expand on the other first 7.

@zensaiyuki I feel like there could be a lot of benefit in more seamlessly integrating the terminal and GUI interfaces to the OS. What's lacking is a one-to-one correspondence with terminal and GUI behavior. Another thing is that the terminal itself could be designed with menus to perform actions, which it then automatically populates as a text command. Eg. You go to terminal and choose copy, it pops up a box asking for source and destination, autopopulates the terminal with eg (cont)

@zensaiyuki 'cp someFile someNewFile', then shows the user the copied file in the destination. Or something like that. It could be integrated into the file manager or something.

@unspeakablehorror there’s a very nice model (yet to be fully implemented by anyone) for integrating gui and cli interfaces described in Jef Raskin’s “the Humane Interface”, one of my sources for this thread. tiny parts of the idea have been integrated into OSX spotlight,

@unspeakablehorror his son Aza Raskin implemented other parts in Enso and Ubiquity, two now abandoned projects.

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@zensaiyuki Counterpoint to #19: *If* you're going to force the user to remember things, be consistent, and stick to reusable patterns.

We find things in a house, kitchen, workshop, or store, by keeping them in the same place. If you want to drive someone nuts, put the can opener or cheese slicer in a different place every day, or move their keys or phone after they put it down.

And for the love of all things Noodley, if the user puts something somewhere, LEAVE IT THERE.


@zensaiyuki ... No matter how much it offends your sensibilities to do that.

(You may offer a suggestion as to another way of doing that. Once.)

Complex tools such as bash or vim may not be great new-user concepts, but they create increadibly complex and powerful capabilities by combining a fairly small number of primitives. VIm in particular has a set of actions, movements, and nouns which can be combined with great flexibility. This is useful.


@dredmorbius that’s covered in #5. though in fairness I didn’t expand much on those first 8 items.

@zensaiyuki Point, though this goes beyond mere habits and spatial memory, it's a notion of conceptual compactness, reuse, efficiency, and frugality. Find patterns of behaviour and the natural language of your tool.

More generally, tools achieve _effects_ on _things_ through _actions_. There should be some notional language, even if it's one of activities, that falls out of that.

@dredmorbius still, if this were a wiki entry i’d still stick all that under #5, which was in the twitter version of the thread “don’t move things”

@dredmorbius but then that speaks to the interface of “teaching” which I struggle with. is it best to command? “do, don’t”, give examples “this is a bad thing. this is doing the thing better”, or describe the abstract principle

@dredmorbius research suggests examples are best, and then people naturally synthesise the abstract principles from the examples. but then those don’t make good headlines.

@zensaiyuki In person, "hey, can I make a suggestion" can work.

The computer equivalent of that -- Microsoft's "digital assistant" Clippy, *STILL* gives me a violent rage-inducing wave of nausea just thinking about it.

A _very_ subtle "tips" link *might* work.

Games-as-training for mechanical stuff (solitaire, minesweeper, etc.) seems more useful. For more complex tasks, you're kind of stuck.

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