10 Essential Principles for Following User Interface Guidelines

Guidelines refers to a set of recommendations or best practices that dictate how to design and develop an effective user interface (UI) for a software application, website, or any other digital product. These guidelines typically cover various aspects of UI design, such as layout, typography, color scheme, navigation, and user interaction. The 10 basic rules outlined in these guidelines serve as a foundation for creating a user-friendly and intuitive interface that enhances the user experience and meets the expectations of the target audience.

Here are 10 basic rules to follow when building a user interface (UI):

  1. Keep it simple: A simple UI design is often the most effective, as it allows users to easily navigate and find what they're looking for.
  2. Be consistent: Consistency in design helps users understand how to use your UI, and reduces confusion or frustration.
  3. Use familiar patterns: Familiar design patterns and UI elements help users recognize how to interact with your product.
  4. Prioritize user needs: The UI should prioritize the needs and goals of your users, rather than your own preferences.
  5. Provide clear feedback: Users should receive clear and immediate feedback when they interact with your UI, such as through animations, visual cues, or sounds.
  6. Make it accessible: Your UI should be accessible to all users, regardless of any disabilities or impairments they may have.
  7. Use proper typography: Typography plays an important role in UI design, and choosing the right fonts and sizes can greatly improve readability and clarity.
  8. Use color thoughtfully: Color can evoke emotions and influence user behavior, so it's important to use color thoughtfully and consistently.
  9. Make it easy to navigate: Users should be able to easily navigate your UI, with clear and intuitive navigation menus and buttons.
  10. Test and iterate: Finally, it's important to test your UI design with real users, and to iterate based on their feedback and behavior. Continuous improvement is key to building a successful UI.

To make an app, website or software as intuitive as possible, UI experts focus on 10 basic principles of user interface. As we go through the guide, we dig into simple explanations and real-world examples.

The main focus of UI design is anticipating what users might need to do in order to make their experience as intuitive as possible. With so many apps, websites, and software, how do UI designers achieve this goal? One way is through the 10 user interface (UI) guidelines.

User interface design is about usability, usefulness, and appeal. If you follow these ten high-level rules of thumbnail, you'll have a solid foundation for achieving your goals. Learn about design, dive into explanations, and see examples of practical implementations.

What are the User Interface Guidelines?

System Status Visibility

Users want to know what's happening with your product throughout their experience. Visibility into the state of the system helps them understand the results of previous interactions and intuitively decide next steps—without thinking too much about it.

Provide instant feedback to users through popups or status bars. Creating products with regular, predictable interactions inspires trust in users. Predictable UI experience helps trust your product and brand.

Example: Google Maps GPS arrows and status bar.

Google Maps arrows or car icons to indicate where users are on a journey. Additionally, they put a progress bar at the top of the screen showing their next step and how far away they are. They also went above and beyond by adding a drive time indicator at the bottom of the screen. Each of these components will change based on the user's actions - whether they follow the route or not.

Matching the system to the real world

While you probably use it with your team every day at the office, users won't understand the jargon. Speaking the user's language is important. This includes words of your choice, but also phrases and concepts.

When it comes to UI design, keep it simple. Arrange information in a natural and logical order. Terms, symbols and images should correspond to foreseeable results. Users can clearly identify icons such as a magnifying glass or an arrow. This practice is also known as "natural mapping".

If you stick to this practice, it will be easier for users to learn and remember how your UI works. It reduces the user's cognitive load - the amount of working memory resources consumed on a task. Reduce Cognitive Load Ensure users' experience with your product is intuitive.

User Control and Freedom

Users need to clearly mark exits for unexpected or ather actions. This saves them from repeating the whole process. The "emergency exit" creates a sense of freedom for the user. Exports must also be clearly marked and traceable.

Clear exits and the sense of freedom they create for users also inspire confidence in your product and brand. They reduce frustration and negativity, and help make your product more human.

Example: Undo and Redo in Google Docs

In most word processors, including Google Docs, you'll find the "undo" and "redo" functions on the toolbar. You may also recognize the common keyboard functions Ctrl or Cmd+Z or Ctrl and Cmd+Y, allowing users to troubleshoot quickly and easily without too much frustration.

Conformity and Standards

Users interact with multiple applications every day. It's usually best to assume that they are the least likely to interact with your app, and that your users' expectations of your app will be based on which apps they use most often.

Predictability is important for trust. By maintaining consistency, you save users from learning new things. Adhering to industry standards reduces the cognitive load and makes your application intuitive to users.

There are two different types of availability; external, internal.  Usability Internal means that all your , layouts, icons, wording, fonts and actions are consistent across the UI. External availability refers to compliance with industry standards for the same components by other applications.

Example: Search Magnifier

A magnifying glass always means "search". The search function, indicated by a magnifying glass, is usually at the top of the page on desktop and the bottom of the screen on mobile devices. These areas are easy to find and quickly navigate.

Error prevention

A piece of advice UI designers often hear is to have a good error message and hope no one sees it. There are two types of errors.

Mistake: An error that occurs involuntarily—mainly due to inattention.

Mistakes: Mistakes made on purpose - often the result of cognitive load or a mismatch between the user's mental model and the design

UI developers have to prevent errors before they become obvious to users or fix it when user complain.  This means finding  error-prone features during user testing before launch. If it is necessary to maintain error-prone functionality, display a confirmation message to the user before performing the action to avoid errors and frustration.

Designing efficiently starts with focusing on avoiding costly mistakes. Then develop a plan to address minor setbacks. UI designers can avoid mistakes by using convenient constraints, changing default settings, or providing confirmation options. You can minimize errors by reducing your cognitive load.

Example: Shake to dismiss confirmation box on latest iPhone OS

Apple introduced the shake to undo feature in iOS 13 in 2019. This feature allows users to completely erase text or notes they have entered by shaking the phone. However, the functionality is hidden. Many users shook their phones only to find that their texts had been mistakenly deleted. Faced with user frustration, Apple quickly introduced the confirmation option.

Recognize rather than remember

Human short-term memory lasts only 20-30 seconds. It is much easier to recognize a country's capital than to remember it. Also, they use many other interfaces besides the one you designed. It is unreasonable to expect them to remember where key functions are located.

As a UI designer, you should make sure that users don't have to remember or transfer information from one part of the UI to another. All key elements, actions, and options should be visible or easily accessible throughout the application. They should also be in the same place.

Example: Automatically fill in security codes

iOS 13 also introduces security code autofill. When a user requests a security code from an app, the keyboard takes the code from their text and prompts it through the user's keyboard. Short-term memory is no longer needed.

Flexibility and efficiency of use

While consistency and consistency are important to building trust and intuition with users, flexibility is also important. If you make your UI more efficient by providing shortcuts and customizations, you can build a different kind of trust with your users.

This looks like a customizable dashboard, keyboard shortcuts, or touch gestures that speed up common functions. Alternatively, as with most social media platforms, you can personalize your user content. This could be a way to customize their feed, like Pinterest, or a hidden algorithm, like Instagram or TikTok.

Example: Pinterest's Move and Hold Shortcut

Pinterest offers many customization and productivity features to its users. From customizable boards, board segments and feed tweaks to touch gestures and board suggestions. By far the feature that maximizes productivity is touch gestures.

They use industry conventions for button icons in simple pie menus. Although used infrequently, pie chart menus have proven to be the most effective menu type for user experience.

Beautiful and simple design

There’s a reason minimalist design dominates user interfaces. Simplifying the user interface so that it contains only relevant information is critical. The design should not contain anything that is rarely needed. Leaving unimportant components in a design fixes the relative visibility and importance of key elements.

That doesn't mean your designs have to be graphic designs. However, this means that you should focus on the essentials when it comes to content and visual design. Most importantly, your user interface should support the user's primary goals.

Example: Medium

Medium uses a smooth black and white interface. Buttons are clearly marked or outlined in gray. Their website is easy to navigate with few menu options.

Help users identify, diagnose, and fix errors

Users need autonomy and control. They don't want to contact your company when they encounter a bug, and neither do you. To avoid this, it is important to help users identify, diagnose, and fix errors on their own.

Clear, understandable error messages that offer constructive solutions make this possible. Avoid error codes. Add a graphical or visual representation of an error to spot it faster.

Example: Payment failure notification from Spotify

Spotify's error messages are well done. They provide clear next steps to resolve the issue in plain language and are highlighted in bright red so users don't miss it. They even provide an "Emergency Exit" in the upper right corner for users to perform this task later, since it's not strictly necessary to use the free version of the app right now.

Help and Documentation

Strong misinformation isn't enough to fully cover all your bases. Having help and documentation that is searchable and easy to find is critical to the long-term success of any software or hardware.

This should be kept short. Next steps to solve the problem or learn the feature should be specific. Whenever possible, it's best to present documents to users when they actually need them.

Example: Chatbot

Chatbots are currently the prime example of providing assistance. Instead of searching for help on the website, Dubsado provides potential customers with a chatbot that helps them search for documents quickly and easily. If you can't find what you're looking for via the chatbot, you'll receive an email and you can continue the conversation with a real person or schedule a live demo.

Why are the 10 principles of user interface design so important?

Following these rules of thumb, or heuristics, will give you a good foundation for UI design. For decades, UI leaders have developed these ten proven principles to improve user experience across the board. Well, they are not laws. You don't have to follow them all the time. However, having these ideas in mind when starting a design can be beneficial for efficiency.