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Fri, 3 Dec 2004 16:08:07 -0800
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Thanks all for responding to my query.

Responses exceeded my expectations (in both quantity and quality). As you'll
see from the detailed responses, there were both high level principles and
detailed actionable principles.

This is exactly what I was looking for and has helped me formulate my
thoughts going forward.

For an extra treat - check out the final response - while not to the list,
it may give you a laugh...

To refresh everyone's memory, I asked:

Assume you've been given the task of isolating 15 of the most important
(crucial, relevant, desirable) "usability" principles to form the basis for
usability goals.  I won't corrupt your answers by constraining my definition
of usability principle.

What would your list look like, what sources would you draw upon?  Do you
have a favorite canonical resource?

Consider that the application is potentially a rich hybrid of enterprise and
browser technologies.


Usually I build upon one single meta-principle: "You are the one who
should think, not user."

Thus using any prerendered, rigid list of usability principles goes
wrong enough already.

Sincerely, Kuso Mendokusee.
Dear Leo,

What an interesting question.

"Trust" and "confidence" are two words I use frequently with clients.

    When users trust a system to do what they want
    in a way they expect then users will have more
    confidence in the system.  This helps users learn
    and use the system more effectively, which in turn
    will help them understand the domain the system is
    based on."

I think these two words "trust" and "confidence" basically sum up the effect
of other principles.

Warm regards,
Well, the basic heuristics from Jakob Nielsen would be a start.

And Tog's First Principles comes to mind...

So I guess I'd combine those two, then wittle down to the required "no
more than 15" constraint you identified. There are some overlaps, so
it wouldn't be too hard.

And when I was done I'd sit and stare at the list and wish I could
somehow incorporate Cooper's About Face 2.0...

~Jon Ashley
I usually strive for Explicitness. This means easy, clear, unambiguous,
task-supportive interfaces.

Besides that I tend to use the 'Mayhew'-list when arguing for

1.      Consistency: refers to similarity within a product. People naturally
assume consistency, and they reason by analogy
2.      Familiarity: a system that presents the user with file cabinets,
folders, recycle bins, and documents is more familiar than one that presents
volumes, libraries, workspaces, workpads and files
3.      Simplicity: make simple things simple, complex things possible
4.      Direct manipulation: directly performing actions on visible objects
5.      Control: users prefer to feel a sense of mastery and control over
any tool at their disposal, and the computer is no exception
6.      WYSIWYG: what you see is what you get
7.      Flexibility: allows more user control and accommodates variations in
user skill and preferences
8.      Responsiveness: computer should always respond immediately to a
user's input
9.      Invisible technology: what actually is going on inside the computer
should be invisible to the user
10.     Robustness: system should tolerate common and unavoidable human
11.     Protection: user should be protected against catastrophic results of
human error
12.     Ease of learning and ease of use: systems should be both easy to
learn for the novice and efficient and easy to use for the expert

And in a longer version of her list, there are 4 more:
1.      User compatibility: all users are different both from the designer
and from one another
2.      Product compatibility: similar products must act alike
3.      Task compatibility: structure and flow of a system should match and
support the task that is being carried out
4.      Work flow compatibility: systems should be organized to facilitate
transitions between tasks
Edwin van de Bospoort
I had to do this for the specific sub-area of creating content. My current
thoughts (updated occasionally) are at
There are nine of them:
1. Understand context of use
2. Choose what to say
3. Slash everything else
4. Edit sentences
5. Put into logical order
6. Demolish walls of words
7. Choose links
8. Check consistency
9. Rest it then test it.

They're somewhat abbreviated so as to be short and memorable, with
explanations at the next level down on the site.

I think that numbers 1, 5, 6, 8 and 9 would apply equally to any type of
interface, and have specifically demonstrated the importance of 6 for forms.

Hope this helps.
Caroline Jarrett
#1 test, and test often
#2 for every generalization there is someone whom it won't work for
#3 rules are temporary based on best knowledge of someone else. Use
with a grain of salt
#4 whichever path you choose, be consistent see #1
#5-15 for all other rules that would follow this one, see #1-3

--dave heller
And last but not least, the response from Don Norman on the OK/Cancel "Ask
Don" list:

The most important consulting rule that I follow is: "Never solve the
problem as stated." Why? because it is invariably the wrong problem, usually
being the symptom rather than the cause. Find the root cause and solve that,
and then the original problem usually disappears.

I intend to follow that rule right now.

Leo Frishberg
Architect, User Experience
Advanced Development Group
Logic Analyzer Product Line
Ph: +1 503.627.2833
Fax: +1 503.627.2009

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