10 Rules of Thumb

Improve the usability, utility, and desirability of your designs by applying Jakob Nielsen's and Rolf Molich's 10 rules of thumb. These rules have been applied in many of the products by some of the most successful companies in the world such as Apple, Google, and Adobe.

1. Visibility of system status.

Users should always be informed of system operations with easy to understand and highly visible status displayed on the screen within a reasonable amount of time.

2. Match between system and the real world.

Presenting information in logical order and expectations from their real-world experiences will reduce cognitive strain and make systems easier to use.

3. User control and freedom.

Offer users a digital space where backward steps are possible, including undoing and redoing previous actions.

4. Consistency and standards.

Interface designers should ensure that both the graphic elements and terminology are maintained across similar platforms.

5. Error prevention.

Whenever possible, design systems so that potential errors are kept to a minimum. Eliminating or flagging actions that may result in errors are two possible means of achieving error prevention.

6. Recognition rather than recall.

Minimize cognitive load by maintaining task-relevant information within the display while users explore the interface. Human attention is limited and we are only capable of maintaining around five items in our short-term memory at one time. Due to the limitations of short-term memory, designers should ensure users can simply employ recognition instead of recalling information across parts of the dialogue.

7. Flexibility and efficiency of use.

With increased use comes the demand for fewer interactions that allow faster navigation. This can be achieved by using abbreviations, function keys, hidden commands, and macro facilities. Users should be able to customize or tailor the interface to suit their needs so that frequent actions can be achieved through more convenient means.

8. Aesthetic and minimalist design.

Keep clutter to a minimum. All unnecessary information competes for the user's limited attentional resources, which could inhibit user’s memory retrieval of relevant information.

9. Help users recognize, diagnose and recover from errors.

Designers should assume users are unable to understand technical terminology, therefore, error messages should almost always be expressed in plain language to ensure nothing gets lost in translation.

10. Help and documentation.

Ideally, we want users to navigate the system without having to resort to documentation. However, depending on the type of solution, documentation may be necessary. When users require help, ensure it is easily located, specific to the task at hand and worded in a way that will guide them through the necessary steps towards a solution to the issue they are facing.