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
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:
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,
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.
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.)
33. the subjective experience of a UI is often vastly different from the objective reality of the system, particularly with regards to perception of time and mental models about what the computer is actually *doing* and how it works. The Watched Kettle effect. For instance, shortcut keys *feel* faster but are measurably slower than just using menus. A file copy routine can be made as fast or slow as you like but the *perception* of its speed is down to how the progress bar is animated.
34. The user maintains a mental model of the system in their mind, a representation of the way the system works that helps them percieve situations, respond to situations predict outcomes and solve problems. It’s the software UI’s responsibility to either help the model become more accurate, or intentionally abstract and deflect the mental model from the truth. A user with a wrong mental model making an inaccurate prediction leads to user frustration.
35. the brain structures responsible for human memory and perception of time are wired directly to the amygdala: the seat of human emotion. a session at a computer will be represented by an episodic memory, regulated by the user’s emotional state at different points in time. frustrating experiences will be represented more prominently in memory than “average” experiences. the last experience in the episode is more prominent than experiences in the middle. our memory is structured narratively.
an amusing consequence of #35 is what a study about colonoscopies can teach us about software interfaces.
#37. https://lawsofux.com contains another numbered list of of principles that amazingly mostly does not overlap with this one.
#38. Gestalt, or “the sum is greater than the parts” refers broadly to the repertoir of tricks the human mind has for completing patterns from incomplete evidence. I could go on and on about it, but i found this great article summing it up along with examples of how it applies to various UI situations
#40. Convention over experimentation.
There are many arbitrary decisions in UI design. for example: where to place the search bar? fundamentally, it doesn’t matter what you do, but if there’s an established convention please use that. Place the search bar on the upper right hand side of your global nav; not because there’s science to back that up but because if you put it there I’ll be able to guess where it is. that’s where most sites put it. Don’t make me search for search.
41. Dark Patterns
Dark patterns refer to the repertoir of UI designs and techniques intended to trick or coerce a user into doing things or agreeing to things either with or without their knowledge. a windows prompt that registered closing the window as agreement to upgrade, prompts that give only the choices “ok” and “later”, or sign up sheets that hide the “skip uploading my contacts” link with a small dim font (twitter). If you do any of these, I think you’re probably a rapist too.
44. Past the age of 40, vision tends to decline at a steady pace. mine certainly has. Us old people can’t really deal with font sizes much below 14pt- which tends to look large and goofy to younger folk. whatever size you choose or however you set up your grid, please gracefully permit users to override your choice, and ideally design and code your thing to not break when this is done. this isn’t just politeness, it’s the law in USA, the UK and Australia, along with the rest of WCAG 2.0
45. in olden times, type was carved by hand into metal for each type size. the different sizes were not just scaled versions of the same design: tiny adjustments were made for each size for color and workarounds for printing technology. With the invention of computer fonts, "hinting" was only done for screens at small sizes, wrong anti-aliasing later accidentally mimicked the effect. Few noticed laser printed documents looked slightly wrong or why. Now retina screens have the same issue.
less a principle than a specific criticism of a ubiquitous concept.
problem: filenames try to be both a programmer interface and a user interface and it’s bad at both. spaces, special characters and long names cause problems for programmers. being overly restrictive causes problems for users. Asking for a filename on file close is the wrong time to ask the user to think about a good findable name- exactly when they’ve just decided to do something else.
47. Optical Adjustment
In the course of creating visual designs, designers very very often accidentally create optical illusions. This usually *isn't* desirable. Objects the same size appear different sizes. Lines that are meant to be straight look curved. The only way around this is to carefully adjust things by hand until they "look right". This is called "optical adjustment"
48. Things that work different should look different.
in linguistics, false cognates are words that look and sound similar, with similar meaning, but different origin. false friends are words with similar sound but different meaning. software has false cognates and false friends too. In 2018 they nearly ended the world:
49. Figure-Ground and sillouettes.
The fastest and most well developed stage of visual recognition is of the sillouette of an object. In character design, getting the sillouette of a character to be disctinct is most important. in portraiture if you get the shape of the head right, you’re 90% there. it takes far longer to notice the interior features. time how long it takes you to spot what is wrong with adele. This is important in icon design too- don’t mask all your avatars in circles please
50. We use too many damn modals.
see also: 10., 23, 29 and 30.
need to use a confirmation box?
are you sure?
51. Humans make mistakes. It’s no use pretending they don’t. You’re just going to have to deal with it. So just make them easy as possible to fix. Include infinite undo, back button, home button, version control.
Autocorrect, I am not so sure about. I for one don’t like the computer to insist it knows better than me and then provide no way to easily insist i am right. Let me make mistakes! just make it easy to fix them.
52. The Perception - Action Loop.
A principle from psychology, it describes a method by which humans interact and learn from their environment. it goes:
1. Perceive situation
2. make prediction about it
3. take action
4. observe result. if it matches prediction, reinforce that mental model.
go back to 1.
this principle relates to constraints and affordances, in that the perception step can exploit pre-existing experiences, and observing a result can either reinforce or contradict them
55. All manufactured things should be designed to be used by one hand. either hand.
there are safety features of some industrial equipment that require both hands so that both hands are no where near the dangerous hand mangler part- use best judgement
56. on Unskippable Cut Scenes.
Game UI seems to live in an alternate universe, immune from both the advances and blunders of mainstream computer interfaces. unskippable Cut Scenes and dialogue bubbles are a staple annoyance for Video Game Afficiandos. What everyone secretly wants is for story cut scenes and dialogues to just be presented with ordinary vhs controls and scrolling text planes to read at our own pace. The game industry is to cowardly to do it for reasons.
57. Negativity Bias
related/mentioned in #35.
humans are wired to notice and remember negative experiences more strongly than they notice or remember positive experiences. negative yelp reviews are more likely than positive yelp reviews. if your software is successful at being easy to use, it will be invisible, and most people won’t remember it.
58. more on episodic memory
ever stand up to do something, walk into another toom and forget what you were doing?
it turns out there’s a reason for this. since human memory is organised around episodes, experiments have found that walking through a door is a trigger for ending an episode- the result? short term memory is cleared and primed for new input.
what triggers exist in software? how often have you picked up your phone to do something, saw a notification and lost your flow?
59. Please don't use confirmation dialogues, but if for some reason you absolutely must, don't sleepwalk through writing the the messages and the button labels. Don't just label them "okay" and "cancel" Without thinking about whether that wording harmonises with the message text. If possible, label the buttons as what they actually do, specifically.
60. Plan for failure
software breaks. hardware fails. services go down. users make mistakes. Anticipate as many failure modes as you can, and design recovery plans and craft reasonable, well written communications for the user. Technical writing is its own topic, but for error messages the important things to accomplish are
a. clearly communicate the situation in language that is relevant to the user demographic. e.g. if it’s not a technical audience don’t use jargon
b. explain what to do next
62. Stop making your updates so intrusive. I open an app to use it. if you force me to stop and update it first i forget what I opened it to do. this is user hostile behavior. Ideally, users should not be bothered about updates at all- but unfortunately they a necessary.
a less intrusive pattern is asking for permission to download and install an update on app EXIT.
@zensaiyuki the second picture is very bad and would get a product taken off the shelves in Europe, but in the first both items are part of the fire alarm system, the "light switch" is a jack socket on a faceplate into which a portable telephone is plugged into (the fire marshall can then tell the switchboard operator they have checked that area).
Nowadays hand held radios are used for this purpose.
(I have to test various alarms including fire alarms as part of my job)
@vfrmedia oh my goodness you are right. i incorrectly thought it was a light switch but it isn’t. well, hopefully even with the wrong description i hope it illustrates the point. i am glad for the correction though.
its the same size as a USA light switch faceplate, so would often have a modern "fire phone" sign above it if still in use..
that reminds me I have to buy a pack of reset keys for the call points at my office - in UK/Europe you don't break the glass any more as that creates a hazard of broken glass, its a piece of clear plastic in the call point which is pushed in and latches and you need to use the reset key to spring the latch before you can turn the bells off..
Your chart is ready, and can be found here:
Things may have changed since I started compiling that, and some things may have been inaccessible.
The chart will eventually be deleted, so if you'd like to keep it, make sure you download a copy.
I generally prefer native UIs, but in this case: PLEASE implement your own! Preferably something non-blocking like GTK's InfoBars.
@zensaiyuki I really like how NMS both does this and - crucially - says "your game was last saved X minutes ago".
So I can go "saved 1 minute ago? yeah okay we're all caught up." or "oh, 6 minutes? we were just sitting in our ship the whole time, 's'fine."
@zensaiyuki What exactly did I want to do when I sat down in front of the computer and lost half an hour in a discussion?
@zensaiyuki This is why elementary built their "Welcome Screen" widget!
You see these everywhere on a fresh install of elementary OS!
@alcinnz okay so the example welcome screen there isn’t so bad- welcome screens in gdneral though are unskippable nuisances in my experience
@zensaiyuki A couple thoughts regarding the UI frameworks I use:
2) In GTK please heavily favour infobars (typically shown between the toolbar & window body) & popovers. GNOME & elementary do
@zensaiyuki It's worth noting: This is why FontConfig is part of GNOME's text stack!
To allow font designers to distribute multiple font files for a single font family, so they can perform these optical adjustments for each relevant size & style.
@zensaiyuki I think this idea of different fonts [in the old sense, where font implies a size as well as a typeface] not just being scaled versions of each other is something that OpenType tries to address with its parametric features. There doesn’t seem to have been much uptake of the feature though.
@futzle past a certain threshold of nuance, people tend not to care. they might have the odd feeling that one peice of design seems nicer or “more expensive” than another peice but they won’t be able to put a finger on why.
this level of care in web typography basically represents the tip of the diminishing returns curve: lots of effort for an implacable feeling
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