The 7 inviolable laws of the user interface

Published by TheJoe on

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


This article was published more than a year ago, there may have been developments.
Please take this into account.

The article is now the full translation of the original article by Peter Vukovic appeared on the blog 99designs.

Be un web designer? Se sì, then you also projects user interfaces, a specialization that will continue to grow in importance over time. While today's web pages have simple interfaces, which usually does not include more than one menu navigation and a contact form, the development of new technologies and standards in the near future will demand more and more dynamic content and experiences custom navigation.

This inevitably means more work on the user interface. Let's see what remind us in the design phase.

1. Law of clarity

You will avoid interface elements that do not have a clear meaning.


Usi Gmail? I will. Gmail before the last update clearly showed a menu at the top of the page: Calendar, Drive, Maps and other Google services just a click away.

We then decided to “simplify” and move all behind abstract icon. The result? Most people have never noticed the icon and Gmail began receiving a flurry of requests for support.

People often ignore and avoid the things that can not understand, è la natura umana. We avoid design elements that put people in terms of losing time to understand what they must do, because no one would complain about something that is.

2. Law favorite action

You will feel comforted when they will understand what is the preferred action.


Look at the screenshot above Twitter. Do you think that new users are able to understand what they must do?

Of course, they should start tweeting. Anyway, the button “Compose new tweet” in the upper right corner is not very clear (see “Law of clarity”) and write your message in the box to the left bar merges with the rest of the page. From the point of view of design seems to want to look for something that Twitter users, or offer them some content from the left menu, because these elements are prominent.

Users should not ever wondering what to do next, the preferred action should be obvious.

3. Law of context

The user expects to see the interface controls similar to everyday objects.


How do you change your name on Facebook? Si va su “Settings” in the upper right corner, click “Account Settings“, find the name and click “Edit“. How do you do the same thing on LinkedIn? You choose the pencil next to the name.

Users increasingly expect to interface elements in the context of the object they want to control. This corresponds to real life: when you want to make popcorn, go in the microwave and turn the switch.

It would not be very practical if the microwave would provide instructions to descend the stairs, open the cellar, find the main switch and turn on the one labeled as G-35 to start the popcorn program (which is similar to the change of name Facebook) .

Keep things handy for users – if something can be changed, changed or controlled in any other way, add a way to do next.

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4. Law preset

You rarely will change the settings “Factory”.

The default values ​​are important:

  • Most people have a default wallpaper and ringtone on their phones.
  • The majority of people (many of you including) do not change the factory settings on their TVs.
  • Most people will never change the temperature of the refrigerator default.

We are not aware of the default settings, but dominate our world. Then make sure that all the defaults are as useful and practical as possible – it is likely that some people will never change them.

5. Law action led

It is easy for the user do something if asked.

There is a big difference between to expect users to do something on their own, and specifically ask them to do so.

For example, When LinkedIn introduced functionality to confirm the skills, but did not expect that users would understand immediately how to use it. Instead, have created visible portions “call-to-action” appeared within the profile.

The lesson: if you want your users to do something, you have to ask without hesitation.

6. Adding some feedback

You will feel at ease if they will have clear and constant feedback.


This is only logical – most users feel that the interface is communicating action, will feel more confident.

Gmail is a great example of good feedback. Notifications clear for each action, compresi i link “Learn more” and “Cancel“. This makes users full control and makes them confident in the use of the product.

7. Law of Simplicity

You will be encouraged to perform complex action, if this is fragmented into more simple actions.

We compare the form on the left with the right. Both have similar types of fields, but the one on the right is easier to manage for the user.

All or almost hate to fill out lengthy and complicated form, because they are boring and often it is difficult to re-check everything twice. But if the form is divided into several steps in light of a progress bar, compilation becomes lighter.

This is the law of simplification: people prefer to complete 10 minor goals rather than a large single objective. I do not intimidate small goals and give you a sense of accomplishment every time they are completed.

Laws or guidelines?

There is a reason why I decided to use the word “law” in this article: I have never seen a case where not follow this law has produced a more favorable result.

There is a punishment for breaking these laws, and is available in the form of grumpy users who shed words in your user interface.

Joking aside, user interface design is a delicate task and responsibility. These laws help you make better, and if you decide to “infrangerle” you should make sure you have a good reason.


I keep this blog as a hobby by 2009. I am passionate about graphic, technology, software Open Source. Among my articles will be easy to find music, and some personal thoughts, but I prefer the direct line of the blog mainly to technology. For more information contact me.


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