8 Golden Rules of Interface Design

Richard Wong 20 August, 2008

Considering the only way users can communicate with your application is through the interface, interface design then should be one of the most important part of any application. A good interface will enhance the experience, usability, effectiveness or even success of your system.

From the book by Ben Shneiderman, he pointed out 8 rules to guide us to good interaction design.

1. Strive for consistency.
Consistent sequences of actions should be required in similar situations; identical terminology should be used in prompts, menus, and help screens; and consistent commands should be employed throughout.
2 Enable frequent users to use shortcuts.
As the frequency of use increases, so do the user’s desires to reduce the number of interactions and to increase the pace of interaction. Abbreviations, function keys, hidden commands, and macro facilities are very helpful to an expert user.

3 Offer informative feedback.
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.
Sequences of actions should be organized into groups with a beginning, middle, and end. The informative feedback at the completion of a group of actions gives the operators the satisfaction of accomplishment, a sense of relief, the signal to drop contingency plans and options from their minds, and an indication that the way is clear to prepare for the next group of actions.

5 Offer simple error handling.
As much as possible, design the system so the user cannot make a serious error. If an error is made, the system should be able to detect the error and offer simple, comprehensible mechanisms for handling the error.

6 Permit easy reversal of actions.
This feature relieves anxiety, since the user knows that errors can be undone; it thus encourages exploration of unfamiliar options. The units of reversibility may be a single action, a data entry, or a complete group of actions.

7 Support internal locus of control.
Experienced operators strongly desire the sense that they are in charge of the system and that the system responds to their actions. Design the system to make users the initiators of actions rather than the responders.

8 Reduce short-term memory load.
The limitation of human information processing in short-term memory requires that displays be kept simple, multiple page displays be consolidated, window-motion frequency be reduced, and sufficient training time be allotted for codes, mnemonics, and sequences of actions.

I think it does not matter whether you are developing for the web or desktop. These rules should always help when making any design decision. But as web applications are becoming more and more interactive and complex, we need to make sure the experience of them are improving and not degrading.

Source from Wikipedia

Comments so far

  1. MikeWhoBikes August 26th, 2008 at 4:58 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Richard. These all seem like common sense but of course that doesn’t necessarily make them common practise now does it?

  2. Bernhard H. August 26th, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Alltough you seem to know pretty much about interface design your comment area down here is definitely confusing. It reads “One Comments” and then there’s a single short comment in a huge form. Put together in a grew box the comment seems like a standard terms of use etc. field and is therefore first supposed to be part of the form.

  3. Stimul8d August 26th, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Nice to see an article going back to the roots of usability. Schneiderman’s 8 golden rules are usability 101 and all designers should know them inside out but very few have ever heard the name. Shame.

  4. gwawr August 26th, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    #9… Don’t render your entire interface in italic.


  5. gwawr August 26th, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    cancel that. I do believe it’s a local issue with Helvetica Neue of all things!

    Nice :/

  6. Tara Cultis August 26th, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    I have the same problem with bold italics. I thought it was a trend, lol.

    #10 Visual Hierarchy – In this article, for instance, it would be nice if the “8 Reduce short-term memory load.” was bigger and a different colour than the body copy following it, so the user can easily scan the text and pick out the headlines.

    Unless of course you did that and Helvetica Neue is disguising it on us!

  7. Richard Wong August 26th, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    Thx for your comments about “Visual Hierarchy”. I’ll definitely be more careful next time.

    Also I will try sort out this “bold italics” Helvetica Neue issue. May be by using a more standard font?

  8. Gino Cantu November 12th, 2008 at 9:44 pm


  9. james December 16th, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Very happy to see that you have tried to explain the Schneiderman’s 8 golden rules,could you please try to offer some reference website where a particular rule among the 8 ones has not been fufilled?
    Thank you

  10. Lorrie Wiley January 10th, 2009 at 2:18 am

    good luck

  11. elikeDreavase June 14th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Отлично,несогласен с предыдущими ораторами
    Споки Bye

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  14. rambha December 1st, 2009 at 10:43 am

    what is locus of control it was mention in rule 7
    it should be focus on control

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    Вполне, ч0ткая новость

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  18. Mia Harris May 19th, 2010 at 8:18 am

    i applied for data entry jobs over the internet and it is also a good part time job.:*;

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    i applied for data entry jobs over the internet and it is also a good part time job..**

  20. Mike Robbins May 27th, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Ugg. I feel ill. The laziness of Mr. Shneiderman’s first heuristic has caused much UI woe. A big poster in my office says: “Consistency – It’s only a virtue if you’re not a screwup.” My translation into UI speak is: “Consistency – it only really matters if the UI doesn’t already suck.” I can’t even begin to tell you how many new features or apps which had every chance of providing superior UX have been ruined by the “consistency cops”. Otherwise intelligent and well meaning people are duped into thinking that the new should be consistent with the old, terrible UI. Even if the old UI is pretty good already, pockets of UX excellence are quashed in the name of the consistency screed. Everybody’s got it exactly backwards. Good design does not emerge from consistency. Consistency emerges out of good design. The heuristic should read “Be consistent to excellent design” or something pithier.

  21. Lola Allen August 30th, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    data entry jobs on the internet are quite common but it is not high paying*“

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    data entry jobs are rewarding too, just look for a high paying employer on the internet ,.*

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