ISO 9241-210: User-centred design

The standard used to be known as ISO 13407. But last year it was updated and re-issued as ISO 9241-210 to bring it into line with other ISO usability standards. (So if you hear anyone talking about ISO 13407, they are out of date. They should be talking about ISO 9241-210).

The standard describes 6 key principles that will ensure your design is user centred:

  • The design is based upon an explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments.
  • Users are involved throughout design and development.
  • The design is driven and refined by user-centred evaluation.
  • The process is iterative.
  • The design addresses the whole user experience.
  • The design team includes multidisciplinary skills and perspectives.

UX focuses on adding personality and utility to an inherently emotionless medium

In the face of systemization essential to digital systems, UX focuses on adding personality and utility to an inherently emotionless medium. A good UX designer will:

  • empathize with users
  • help them achieve their goals
  • balance business objectives with the integrity of the user’s experience
  • ultimately, help people improve their lives through technology

Jessica Greco: What Can SEO Learn From UX?

Design principles: Visual Design vs. User experience

Visual Design is the establishment of a philosophy about how to make an impact.

User Experience is the establishment of a philosophy about how to treat people.

Principles of Visual Design:

  • Contrast
  • Emphasis
  • Variety
  • Balance
  • Proportion
  • Repetition
  • Movement
  • Texture
  • Harmony
  • Unity

Principles of User Experience:

  1. Stay out of people’s way.
  2. Create a hierarchy that matches people’sneeds.
  3. Limit distractions.
  4. Provide strong information scent.
  5. Provide signposts and cues.
  6. Provide context.
  7. Use constraints appropriately.
  8. Make actions reversible.
  9. Provide feedback.
  10. Make a good first impression.

Whitney Hess

Mandel: The Golden rules of interface design

Place Users in Control

  1. Use modes judiciously (modeless)
  2. Allow users to use either the keyboard or mouse (flexible)
  3. Allow users to change focus (interruptible)
  4. Display descriptive messages and text (Helpful)
  5. Provide immediate and reversible actions, and feedback (forgiving)
  6. Provide meaningful paths and exits (navigable)
  7. Accommodate users with different skill levels (accessible)
  8. Make the user interface transparent (facilitative)
  9. Allow users to customize the interface (preferences)
  10. Allow users to directly manipulate interface objects (interactive)

Reduce Users’ Memory Load

  1. Relieve short-term memory (remember)
  2. Rely on recognition, not recall (recognition)
  3. Provide visual cues (inform)
  4. Provide defaults, undo, and redo (forgiving)
  5. Provide interface shortcuts (frequency)
  6. Promote an object-action syntax (intuitive)
  7. Use real-world metaphors (transfer)
  8. User progressive disclosure (context)
  9. Promote visual clarity (organize)

Make the Interface Consistent

  1. Sustain the context of users’ tasks (continuity)
  2. Maintain consistency within and across products (experience)
  3. Keep interaction results the same (expectations)
  4. Provide aesthetic appeal and integrity (attitude)
  5. Encourage exploration (predictable)

From the chapter ‘The golden rules of interface design’ in: Theo Mandel, ‘The Elements of User Interface Design’, 1997

3 core activities of an information architect

Stimulated by Dan Brown’s 8 principles of information architecture, I’d describe information architecture in 3 core activities:

  1. Understand: Obtain a thorough understanding of the vision (aka requirements) and the users.

    ### Dan Brown says: … nothing

  2. Outline: Develop models of how content can be organised and how to facilitate direct and mediated interaction.

    ### Dan Brown says: Manage the paradox of choice; Allow for growth; Disclose progressively; Think in facets.

  3. Curate: In the digital world, everything is hidden by default. Create interfaces (visual, auditive, tactile) that allow users to uncover relevant content and easily touch base with the system.

    ### Dan Brown says: Provide examples; Provide multiple front doors; Navigate by function.

8 principles of Information Architecture

  1. Treat content as objects
  2. Manage the paradox of choice (Less is more)
  3. Disclose progressively
  4. Provide examples
  5. Provide multiple front doors
  6. Allow for growth
  7. Think in facets (Provide multiple classification schemes)
  8. Navigate by function; move away from thinking ‘Top navigation’, ‘Left hand nav’, ‘utilities’ etc and think of different navigation types that support interaction with the site, eg Topical navigation, Service navigation, Magazine navighation, Dynamic navigation … (examples mentioned in talk, don’t necessarily agree with these types but like the general idea of describing navigation by its purpose (see quote below).

“Navigation is a tool and we must think about it in terms of the purpose that it serves … (such as) exploring related topics, digging deeper into a current topic, escaping from the current topic, filtering a collection. (…) Don’t describe navigation in terms of where it lives on the page but what it does.”

Dan Brown Eight principles of Information Architecture

IA heuristics

IA heuristics (comes handy for review)

  1. Does the site structure match the tasks to be performed by the user?
  2. Does the apparent site complexity and functionality match the intended user need?
  3. Is the structure designed so as reduce the total number of navigational steps needed to reach the desired page?
  4. Are frequently needed and critical pages located near the top of the site structure, requiring a small number of clicks from the homepage?
  5. Does the structure convey an appropriate metaphor that facilitates user’s understanding of the site?
  6. Do the navigational labels provide meaningful, unambiguous summary of the pages?
  7. Do the labels use familiar and consistent terminology?
  8. Are the labels distinct from one another?
  9. Do important keywords stand out in the labels?
  10. Does the site promote learning of the location of pages in the site structure?
  11. Does site design build on our prior learning and experience of the intended users?
  12. Does the layout of the navigation facilitate visual scanning by the user?
  13. Do the number of pages per navigation level and the number of levels in the site structure optimise navigation time?
  14. Has random or arbitrary ordering of pages on a particular level in the site structure been avoided?
  15. Are pages on a particular level presented in a logical order to facilitate scanning?
  16. Are pages on a particular level ordered to reveal structure and relationships among them?
  17. Does the order of pages agree with the user’s expected ordering?

From Volkside: 17 guidelines for better information architecture…from 1991

IA/UX: Making stuff meaningful

    My job is making applications and Web sites meaningful (wow, big word). How does that work?

  • Thinking relevance. I ensure that functionality and content is relevant to what users actually want or is in the scope of what they might want.
  • Thinking logic. I develop a structure that is consistent but does not exclude users with a different view on the content’s organisation.
  • Thinking culture. I explore shared values, ideas, and activities of users in order to create a meaningful digital environment.
  • Thinking narrative. Every product wants to tell a story. I apply that story to the structure, the navigation journeys, and the placement of contextual information.


A folksonomy is a classification system on the basis of user-generated tags.

“In a folksonomy, the relationships between tags are inferred based on their usage patterns. There are no formal relationships in a folksonomy, other than perhaps ‘degree of relatedness’. Because a folksonomy uses agorithms to look at tagging patterns, two tags that have no known semantic relationship may have a statistical relationship.”

Gene Smith, Tagging: People-Powered Metadata For The Social Web, p. 82