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6 Principles of User Interface Design

6 Principles of User Interface Design

In this article, we will discuss about the 6 principles of User Interface Design.

Larry Constantine and Lucy Lockwood gave these design principles. They wrote the 1999 Jolt Award winning book called ‘Software for Use: A Practical Guide to the Models and Methods of Usage-Centered Design‘.

These 6 principles of user interface design can help us analyze the user intentions and interaction patterns. As a result, we can create usage-centered and enhanced interfaces.

The 6 principles of user interface design are –

Let’s find out what these 6 design principles mean. Also, how to effectively use them in our user interface.

The Structure Principle

The first of the 6 principles of user interface design is the Structure principle.

The idea behind structure principle is to have a well organized user interface. The information architecture should make it easy for the user to find required information.

Place the content at the expected location. For example, the user expects to find the company details in the About Us page of the website.

Design the navigation system effectively. This will help the user to navigate though the interface smoothly.

The user should at all times know his location in the interface and should not feel lost. In this case, you can use breadcrumbs to show the user journey. This will allow him to easily navigate without any confusion.

The navigation system elements should be kept at obvious places. For example, the users are habitual to see the global menu of a website on the top. Not finding the global menu on top can lead to confusion and bad user experience.

The Structure Principle - 6 Principles of User Interface Design
The Structure Principle – 6 Principles of User Interface Design

The Simplicity Principle

The interface design should be very straight-forward, easy to understand and easy to use. This should be irrespective of the expertise level of user. Which means, a new user should be able to use it as effectively as an old user.

The communication should be clear and in a language which the user can understand. The user should be able to understand the message and take actions accordingly.

Complexity in interface design should be avoided as much as possible. If a task is complex and difficult, break it into simpler steps. Therefore, this will reduce the cognitive load on the user.

Avoid cluttering the interface with unnecessary or irrelevant information. This will help the user focus on important things and achieve the goal quickly and efficiently.

The Simplicity Principle - 6 Principles of User Interface Design
The Simplicity Principle – 6 Principles of User Interface Design

The Visibility Principle

The user interface design should lay emphasis on the important elements. All the important information and functionalities should be clearly visible to the user.

Visibility can be increased with the help of font sizes, typefaces, colors and spacing. Typographical emphasis like bold, italic and underline can also be used.

For example, visibility of important content can be increased by using bigger font sizes. In the same way, visibility of click to action buttons can be increased by using eye catching colors.

You can also try to place the elements at the most visible places of your interface. Or, make the important elements more visible by removing redundant things around it.

Visibility should also be considered in the process to achieve a goal. There should be a transparent process without any hidden functionalities.

Along with these principles, you can also use tools for specific purposes which can help you create better designs.

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The Visibility Principle - 6 Principles of User Interface Design
The Visibility Principle – 6 Principles of User Interface Design

The Feedback Principle

Every user action in the interface should give a reaction. This is to make sure that the action has been performed successfully. Due to this principle, the users can avoid performing actions repeatedly for surety.

For example, you have registered for newsletter from a website. If you don’t receive a success notification from them in any form, you might feel confused. You might want to register again to make sure the action has taken place successfully.

This is why feedback principle is important. It brings certainty to the user that the action has been performed.

Even if an action is unsuccessful, the user should should be informed about it. Moreover, the interface should provide guidance on what they can do next to fix it.

If there is a loading screen, uploading or downloading file, the percentage of work done should be displayed. So that, the user knows that the work is in progress and don’t start panicking.

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The Feedback Principle - 6 Principles of User Interface Design
The Feedback Principle – 6 Principles of User Interface Design

The Tolerance Principle

The interface should be tolerant of the human mistakes. It should provide hints and guidance so that the user can achieve the tasks without any mistakes.

For example, while setting a password, a good UI system prompts about the length of password. It also tells what symbols and characters to include and how to set a strong password.

This is so much better than telling that the set password does not meet criteria at the end of the process. It saves a lot of rework.

On the other hand, if a mistake is performed, the user should always be able to revert back without any losses. Undo and redo options should be provided wherever necessary.

For instance, if a user forgets his password, we won’t block his account straightaway. We will provide hints and recovery methods.

The tolerance principle makes the user feel safe while exploring and using the interface.

The Tolerance Principle - 6 Principles of User Interface Design
The Tolerance Principle – 6 Principles of User Interface Design

The Reuse Principle

The last of 6 principles of user interface design is the Reuse principle.

It deals with trying to avoid duplicating of information and elements. Reuse the elements wherever possible to optimize the interface.

If you need the same user details at two different places, make them enter the details just once. You already have the information at back-end and can reuse it.

The reuse principle also works for UI elements. Using the same elements for similar tasks will bring consistency in the interface.

For example, if you have 10 download buttons in your website, make sure you are reusing the original design and not designing 10 different looking download buttons.

Different designs can confuse the user and reduce the consistency in the interface.

You can also reuse templates so that the heading and text style, content arrangement, colors etc are consistent throughout your interface.

The Reuse Principle - 6 Principles of User Interface Design
The Reuse Principle – 6 Principles of User Interface Design

Conclusion – 6 Principles of User Interface Design

In this article, we have discussed the 6 principles of User Interface design in depth. I hope the examples and images helped you understand the concept in a better way.

Implementing these design principles can surely help us improve our design sense and ultimately our user interfaces. Make the best out of it so that you can become a better UI/UX Designer.

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FAQ – 6 Principles of User Interface Design

What are the general principles of user interface design?

The general principles of user interface design are – it should be structured properly, simple to use, all important elements should be clearly visible, tolerant of user mistakes, aesthetically pleasing and consistent.

What are the six principles of designing a UI project?

The 6 principles of user interface design are Structure, Simplicity, Visibility, Feedback, Tolerance and Reuse.

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