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.

6. Locus of Attention
this is a recognition of the fact that human consciousness is single threaded. that while parallel processes permit us to do things like walk and chew gum at the same time, there is only one thread of processing that represents our conscious awareness. therefore, interfaces that expect our attention to be fully present in the status bar, the cursor, the flashing banner ad, the address bar, the lock icon, the autoplaying video and the notifications are misguided.

7. No Modes
A Gesture is an action (a keystroke, a mouse move) expected to result in some effect (a letter being added to a document, a cursor moving).
A mode changes the effects associated with some or all gestures. caps lock is a mode. “apps” are modes. Modes are bad if they result in modal error: the unawareness that a mode has been activated, resulting in unexpected effects, and possibly unawareness it *is* a mode, or how to get out of it. VIM is prime offender. so are modern TVs.

modes are typically employed as solutions to the situation of the number of functions in a system far exceeding the number of available external controls. this can happen either as a result of featuritis, or an apple-esque fetish for small numbers of buttons.
suggested remedies include quasimodes like the shift key, that activate a mode only while a button is being held down. another approach is developing composable UI conventions like GUI menus, or search, that can scale without modes.

another way of looking at this is examining how much context a user needs to understand what effect a gesture will have, and how effectively that context is being communicated. Can i write a step for step guide to doing a task on a computer, for a computer novice, that doesn’t include first determining where in the operating system you are, whether the correct application is open, figuring out which of many methods can get you into that apllication are applicable in that situation?

this is what was nice about the “home” button on iphones: it doesn’t matter where you are in the system, there’s a physical hardware clicky button that will always bring you back to the start, and cannot be overriden by third party software.
apple ruined it with the iphone X swipey home gesture. not only is it hidden interface, but it’s modal now-which edge you swipe depends on the orientation sensor, and is —- sometimes but not always visually indicated by a line that is maybe correct.

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

why is this important? because without fast and constant communication, the UI will feel broken. it’s why a chattering cli log *feels* faster than a crawling progress bar. the gui might, on stopwatch time, be faster than the CLI, but time *perception* works differently, it works with feedback and delays.

28. making your software configurable/customisable allows you to accomodate more diverse users, but it also makes your software more complicated and harder to document and learn, since a configuration is a kind of mode.

29. Never use a warning when you mean “UNDO”.
while there are many actions you can take on a computer that are non reversible, most of the ones with confirmation dialogs truly are reversible. these boxes should only be used when absolutely necessary, and seriously rethoghr even then. the unfortunate side effect of their overuse has been alert fatigue: people have become accustomed to their typical meaninglessness and dismiss them without reading, even important ones

30. Avoid alert fatigue at ALL costs.
imagine the marketing department got their hands on the fire alarms. they would almost certainly use them every day to gather the entire building to one spot, and megaphone about the latest 30% off sale at Myer.

when there’s something actually important, like a real fire, people would die, and it would be marketing directly responsible for those deaths.

this is why letting app developers register notifications on your phone was a huge mistake.

31. don’t rely on the user to have fast reaction times, or high levels of hand eye coordination. this is as much an accessibility guideline as it is a usability guideline. Primary offenders are things like double clicks, rapidly changing search results, drop down menus, popouts that rapidly appear and disappear, and in general bait and switch buttons.

32. don’t confuse a steep learning curve for bad UI. don’t confuse something that is just similar to what you’re used to for good UI. Don’t confuse the level of pain you went through to learn something with its intrinsic worthiness. The only “intuitive” interface is the nipple.
(not actually true, there’s a whole job for teaching babies how to breastfeed, but that’s the catchphrase for this one, sorry.)

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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.

Ah, this is a big concern of mine in exploring how best to replace JavaScript!

I'm warry of all the surveillance it enables, but adding more permission prompts would just backfire! In order to be effective I need to master the art of subtlety!

As in "ofcourse clicking this link send a network request", or "ofcourse the file I just selected will be uploaded when I submit this form".


@alcinnz @zensaiyuki you may be interested in although of course it doesn't solve the problem entirely

@zensaiyuki <troll>Should we put captchas in confirmation boxes? 😅</troll>

It's a nice thread: I learned a lot. Thanks! 😊

I just realised that the above-mentioned article actually considers the captcha approach seriously, but it is of course is not a real solution: “It causes us to concentrate on the unhabitual-task at hand and not on whether we want to be throwing away our work.” Right.

@MartinShadok to be honest I am not sure what the solution is to the whole captcha thing, other than a significant restructuring of our culture and society. we require ever more complex captchas in the first place because there is a financial incentive to defeat it. we should work toward an equitable world where no one believes it’s worth the effort to spam.

or in specific instances, forcing yourself to think about the wider cultural and social context that requires it, beyond the tech.

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@zensaiyuki I find it interesting that these benefits & drawbacks can vary a lot between different configuration options.

e.g. letting users set the (default?) font for websites can both help accessibility, and is trivial to implement because it's just a "magic number" used during rendering.

@alcinnz also, that option doesn’t otherwise change the behavior of gestures. the example raskin uses is the configurable toolbars of some 1990s versions of MS Word. convenient if you’re a power user, but now you can’t document those shared installations (households, libraries, schools) of msword for novices because the toolbars could contain literally anything.

@alcinnz after reading raskin’s book I became hardline against configuration: especially since it would be a topic of argument whenevee apple would change something in OSX (just add a configuration switch!). and so, upon approaching a stranger’s macbook you now have no idea which way the scroll gesture will scroll.

however I’ve softened now that I’ve realised some configuratoon options are essential for accessibility.

@alcinnz on the opposite end of the spectrum, the gnome project is now discovering that too much configurability can be a curse. there’s so many theme options in gnome now it’s impossible to write an app and test for every possible configuration. most of the devs are forced to make the unsatisfactory tradeoff of testing only with default configurations. (which it seems, taken as a whole across all software, default settings become a defacto platform. changing them puts you in weird bug land)

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@zensaiyuki Very strong agree on this one. To add to this: I believe that people shouldn't have to upgrade computers unless they're broken beyond repair and/or their use-cases change (e.g. if a netbook user suddently wants to install Gentoo and build Chromium from source). Computers shouldn't be able to do *less* as time goes by; they're machines, not perishable groceries.

Too often, devs test on high-end machines with just one CPU architecture. I invite any Electron/Flutter app developers to test their apps on a $20 single-board ARMv7 computer with no hardware acceleration, or a ThinkPad T400. Almost nothing happens in <0.1 seconds, even if the app is the only program running.

@zensaiyuki Can you expand on what you don't like about modern TVs, so I can avoid replicating it in my 3rd browser?

For the record I don't personally have one, and when my family give me the remote to theirs' I typically go to the browser or a USB stick I've just plugged in. Hence why I want to make my own smart TV browser.

I think you can guess I don't like the distribution channels for mainstream entertainment...

@alcinnz it’s not a matter of personal “like” or “dislike”, it’s watching my grandmother’s personal triumph over finally mastering the ability to control one. In the road toward that, a common episode is accidentally pressing the wrong button which put the tv into some mode, leaving her with no frame of reference for how to get out of it. enough episodes like this can make people afraid to touch the remote control at all.

@alcinnz i mean, if you’ve never has a problem figuring these things out it can be very hard to empathise, but remote controls have a *lot* of cryptically labelled buttons. if you don’t already know what every one of them does, it’s impossible to know which to press in any of dozens of possible situations. it’s a bit of a bandaid, but one of the best things apple phones used to have is a “home” button, which would always do the same exact thing no matter when you pressed it. pissed it’s gone.

@alcinnz modern home entertainment systems can’t easily work around this problem either, because of the multiple inputs and the input mode selector, there is no single computer in control of the entire system, and so switching input modes is. the only way to, for instance, switch away from the nintendo game so you can watch Home and Away.

@zensaiyuki You'd hope this would get better again with "smart TVs", but from what I can tell "streaming services" won't let them.

I guess that's what "Vodafone TV" is about.

@alcinnz what would be good is to get rid of the concept of “inputs” and “menus” altogether and assign all that shit to numbered channels.

@alcinnz it’s not necessarily the best *possible* solution, but “channels” is a concept people already get. if the nintendo switch is just on channell 95, grandma doesn’t need to learn about input modes to watch her stories. she already knows how to change a channel.

@beadsland @alcinnz it wasn’t necessarily a better world, but it was simpler to understand.

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@alcinnz smart tvs are just a worsening of the problem. more complicated modes and menus. the problem that TV Menus have (and the web itself for that matter) that traditional GUI menus don’t, is TV menus have no sense of space or position. You are instantly teleported from point to point and “where i am”, “where I came from”, and “how to get where I am going” is state that you need to hold in your head. you don’t get a map or compass.

@alcinnz it’s easy to think that this is a generational thing. but, I’m 38 and already feeling my ability to navigate these spaces slipping away.

@alcinnz it’s kinda goofy looking if you’re used to “normal” websites, but I see a lot of potential in things like Prezi, where you have the exact same content as a normal slide presentation, but every part of it has a position in space, and you can always zoom out to see the shape of the entire system, and where you are within it. human brains were built for that.

@alcinnz channels is a sort of cheaper version of that. you can’t “see” the shape of the whole system, but you know it’s a closed loop and you can always find what you’re looking for if you pick a direction and keep walking until you find it.

@zensaiyuki Can't say I fully know to address this problem with The Web, but tree-style history seems like a good step in the right direction. I'm planning to implement that as a (ironically) seperate mode.

From my experience creating a WebKitGTK desktop browser I get the impression existing browser engine embedding APIs and SPAs are frustrating these explorations...

As for Smart TVs, did I mention all I want is to rewatch & relisten to things I've already downloaded?

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@alcinnz so here’s a typical sony TV remote. we have: two tv’s fukin’ (input selector?), and “I slash pumpkin” (power?) tv pause. (which probably doesn’t pause the tv), grid world, 3D? is this a 3D tv? TrackID, a failed shazam competitor that gets its own button that opens the tv browser to a webpage that says the service is shut down. VCR controls that i was surprised to find work when i use the playstation with streaming services! but not with any other device. four color buttons… ! ?

@alcinnz i found out the color buttons are for teletext. who knows about that except for finnish and british people? i-manual opens a confusing and useless “online” instruction manual mode. after pressing this, it *does* say on screen you can press “return” to get out of it. this assumes though, that the user hasn’t been sent into a panic and is thus calm enough to actually read what’s on the screen. most of the other buttons in this region do similar panic inducing modes.

@alcinnz below that is a big fat region of numbered buttons my dog enjoys pressing. my tv isn’t hooked up to an antanna so all it does is set the tv to a deafeningly loud static channel which sets me to a panic. i can respond by turning the tv off, figuring out which input mode it was in before and painstakingly toggling through them, or simply hit the mute button which i guess is on here somewhere.

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