Every time you sit to design, there are certain principles that should always be pinned to your wall. These principles are a kind of promises that you take before you embark on the journey to create great digital experiences of the future.
I have been reading a book called “Human Interface Guidelines: The Apple Desktop Interface”. This book gives you a thorough guideline on philosophies behind the Apple Desktop Interface. The principles here form the basis of the desktop interface of Apple. Even today, they form the basis of a lot of design experiences.
Lets go through each of these in detail below.
1. Metaphors from the real world:
“Use concrete metaphors and make them plain, so that users have a set of expectations to apply to computer environments. Whenever appropriate, use audio and visual effects that support the metaphor.”
What this means is that, in order to cater to a wide variety of audiences, we have to design our applications closer to the real world metaphors. The audiences from a wide variety of age groups are more familiar with these metaphors. This makes it easier for them to understand things.
The best example mentioned is the desktop itself. It appears to be a surface on which users can keep tools and documents. Even though menus and scrolls do not appear like the actual metaphors of the real world the desktop being closer to the actual metaphor makes the others easier to grasp. As a whole the real world metaphors need not be exactly close to the real world but they can be different in way mentioned above.
2. Direct Manipulation:
“Users want to feel that they are in charge of the computer’s activities”
Users want power to manipulate. No one likes to see at a screen which does all your work. There has to be an element of interaction to make it interesting. Even the movie can hold a user for 2 and half hours beyond that the people lose patience. Without feedback nothing interests them. Every action should have, not necessarily an equal an opposite reaction, but some reaction.
3. See-and-point (instead of remember-and-type):
“Users select actions from alternatives presented on the screen.
The general form of the user actions is noun-then-verb, or “Hey, you-do -this”
Users rely on recognition, not recall; they shouldn’t have to remember anything the computer already knows.
Most programmers have no trouble working with a command-line interface that requires memorization and Boolean logic. The average user is not a programmer.”
The principle holds true in most of the contexts and for range of users. This is a basic principle of learning. Users want to be reminded about things at the right time. They should not be required to remember data that the computer system already has. For e.g: I need not remember a persons number as I have already fed the data in my phone. By searching in the persons name I can quickly retrieve the number.
“Effective applications are both consistent within themselves and consistent with one another.”
There are not many people in number who can take changes really well. If your user interface has to cater to all kind of audiences, it has to be consistent with what is already built and learnt by the your users. Interestingly, there is a precise statement in the book that tells you how consistency should be looked at:
” This sometimes means that a programmer’s new solution that precisely matches a particular situation should be set aside in favor of a slightly less effective but more commonly used solution.”
5. WYSIWYG(what you see is what you get):
“There should be no secrets from the user, no abstract commands that only promise future results.”
“There should be no significant difference between what the user sees on the screen and what eventually gets printed.”
A perfect example is the use of print commands to print documents or banners as desired. There should be exactly no difference between the document’s layout, styling etc after its printed on the paper. Whatever the computer commands claim to do should be done by the computer, that means, if the computer is shown to put a document in the recycle bin it is made sure it is no longer found in original folder and is now in the recycle bin folder.
6. User Control:
“The user, not the computer, initiates and controls all actions.”
The computer provides relevant options that will help the user to proceed with the task. It is ultimately in the hands of the user to choose what he wishes to do with it. Incase a user tends to use a wrong command the computer will flash a warning message to indicate that, but, ultimately is the user who will decide if he still wishes to go ahead with it.
7. Feedback and Dialog:
“Keep the user informed. Provide immediate feedback. User activities should be simple at any moment, though they may be complex taken together.”
In order that user has the power to manipulate the user has to be given the information he requires to act. He needs to be given the valid data and information to act towards or against a task. Every information provided on the screen should be in the end users language. The instructions should be understandable to the user.
” Users make mistakes; forgive them. The user’s actions are generally reversible- let users know about any that aren’t.”
The best way you can let a user learn something is by letting them try out things by themselves. Learn to make products and that are forgiving. Inform users where they are going and then also inform them about the consequences of their actions. Try to make all actions reversible but if they are not please inform the user.
9. Perceived stability:
“Users feel comfortable in a computer environment that remains understandable and familiar rather than changing randomly.”
” Visually confusing or unattractive displays detract from the effectiveness of human computer interactions.
Different “things” look different on the screen.
Users should be able to control the superficial appearance of their computer workplaces- to display their own style and individuality.
Messes are acceptable only if the user makes them- applications aren’t allowed this freedom.”
Aesthetics play a very important role in connecting with the user. An interface should be aesthetic, which does not only include looking good but also orderly and clean.
These principles have formed the basis of a marvel. They definitely had something in them that made an Apple computer what it is today. The first step in building a change is by spotting the right principles that make it happen.
(P.S: Comments and suggestions are highly appreciated)