Eight Golden Rules for Interface Design

Brad Thomas
3 min readApr 4, 2023
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

As we continue to evolve software products and various websites, it can be very challenging to know just where to start. It is easy to simply copy things we come across in the wild; after all, companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple spend a great deal of money researching and testing their products, so they must be great, right?

It doesn’t always work out that way. Google is known for taking complex things and making them simple, while Microsoft seems to throw everything into their interface and allow users to figure it out. Apple uses an approach that is very simplistic so that anyone can use it. That is where knowing your audience is a big differentiator between an average experience and a great one. Think about some of your favorite websites, software or interfaces. How intricate are they? How is the data structured? Are they easy to use?

Ben Shneiderman, a computer scientist and professor at the University of Maryland, outlined eight golden rules of interface design in his book “Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction.

  1. Strive for consistency
    Achieving consistency is accomplished by employing well-known icons, color schemes, menu hierarchies, calls-to-action, and user flows when designing similar situations and sequences of actions. By standardizing the manner in which information is communicated, we can guarantee that users are capable of applying their existing knowledge without the requirement of learning a new behavior for the same actions.
  2. Enable shortcuts to aid frequent users
    Regular users require expedited methods for completing tasks.
  3. Offer informative feedback
    Users should always know where they are and what’s happening. And, every time they do something, they should get feedback that makes sense.
  4. Design dialogue for closure
    It’s important to inform your users of the outcome of their actions. For instance, users would find it beneficial to receive a confirmation message, such as a “Thank You,” and evidence of their report download or form submission.
  5. Offer simple error handling
    Provide your user with information about what went wrong and guidance on how to rectify the situation.
  6. Permit easy reversal of actions
    Provide users with readily apparent methods to undo their actions.
  7. Support internal locus of control
    Empower your users to initiate actions and instill within them a sense of complete control over the events that transpire within their session.
  8. Reduce short-term memory load
    Users can typically retain only five items in their short-term memory at any given time. Therefore, interfaces should prioritize simplicity and employ effective information hierarchy. It’s advisable to emphasize recognition rather than recall, in line with one of Jakob Nielsen’s ten usability heuristics for interface design.

Utilizing Ben Shneiderman’s ‘Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design,’ you can create user interfaces that are highly effective, productive, and devoid of frustration, similar to those utilized by industry giants such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Regardless of the type of interactive technology in use, be it desktops, mobile devices, or virtual reality, these eight principles are fundamental to the interface design process when human interaction is involved.