Ben Shneiderman’s 8 golden rules of Interface Design

Sandrin Joy
4 min readSep 12, 2021
Ben Shneiderman

In 1986, Ben Shneiderman published the first edition of his book, “Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction” which includes the most popular rules to help us in UI Designing, the 8 golden rules of Interface Design.

  1. Strive for consistency
  2. Enable frequent users to use shortcuts
  3. Offer informative feedback
  4. Design dialog to yield closure
  5. Offer simple error handling
  6. Permit easy reversal of actions
  7. Support internal locus of control
  8. Reduce short-term memory load

Strive for consistency

Consistency will make the design better and easier for us. Having rules for how the interface/design will use colors and hues, type, size, space, user interface elements, and interactions, will eventually lead to a consistent design that the user desires.

Best use scenario :

Colors: A primary, secondary & accent color

Typography : Single font & maintain a 3-tier text size ( BigText , Regular & smallText )

Space: Having a geometrical layout using rows and columns are preferred when placing each element & keeping enough space for them to breathe in.

Interactions: adding visual effects(color) when hovering over clickable elements

Enable frequent users to use shortcuts

Shortcuts are a great way to speed up the interactions for frequent users. This will save a lot of time for the users and makes the project more efficient. When it comes to screen interfaces, touch & keyboard shortcuts are very well implemented for most of the frequently used interactions such as saving (ctrl+s), holding the shift key to type capital letters rather than clicking the caps lock button & then again clicking it to disable it.

When it comes to physical device interactions, let’s take a tv remote example. We can go back to the previously watched channel just using a single button rather than entering the channel number every time.

Offer informative feedback

Users should always know what is happening every time they interact. The best way to let the users know is by giving information in the form of text or graphics ( animations & icons ).

In the interfaces which do not have enough display screens, such as washing machines, water heaters, induction cookers are by outputting a sound (like ‘beep’) & by using lights.

Design dialog to yield closure

Letting the users know about what to do next rather than making them guess or try each option is always considered as the best practice. For example, a shopping service should have a flow from picking the items to queuing, then billing, and finally paying. A great flow keeps the users.

A common way to make users do a sequence of actions is by showing them only the necessary elements on the interface rather than keeping all the remaining elements of the interface ‘on’

Offer simple error handling

Users can make mistakes, which is usually unavoidable. But the way of handling those mistakes and letting them know about them can be very effective. Rather than explaining them in technical terms, we should always try to use the sentences & dialogs that users can understand.

Good error handling will also contain a short note on how to avoid this error again the next time.

Permit easy reversal of actions

When the user wants to roll back into the previous action rather than starting from the beginning, letting them do it is really helpful & effective. Most of the Interfaces often come with this option such as ctrl+z on keyboards, back button & swiping left & right on mobile devices.

Support internal locus of control

Users should always have control of the interface. They should have the feeling that they are the one who is doing all the actions & not as a spectator,

Keeping a cancel action available whenever the system is doing something is a really good way to implement this. For example, cancel option when downloading or uploading, close option on the advertisements. Seeking user’s permission whenever something new task is being done is a wonderful practice ( start/run button, download option, power on button )

Reduce short-term memory load

One should never try to buy more space on the user’s head for remembering how to use the device/application. To avoid this, keep the design simple and neat. Keeping universal standard actions rather than creating new actions for each application will avoid many confusions when interacting.

For example, a ‘Navigation bar’ is mostly kept on the top part of the website to avoid confusion. On mobile devices, buttons are present on the bottom of the part & volume buttons on the side.

In conclusion, These golden rules help to develop much better & effective Designs for humans to Interact With.