Clear languare: Use category names that people understand

Hora Loranger from Nielsen Norman Group has a nice article that shows what to keep in mind when choosing category names for websites (or user interfaces):

  • Choose descriptive words and phrases
  • Avoid made-up words or terms
  • Check for overlapping categories
  • Use classification schemes that communicate attributes your users can decipher
  • Don’t rely on your instincts when deciding label names.

Use usual, great examples and more insight in provided in the article. Highly recommended.


Products should not have labels

I stumbled across this post by Peter Hildebrandt, giving a very good overview of why your products should not have labels. Of course, the product should not simply lack any operation instructions, but it should be designed to that labels are unnecessary. The examples are real-world examples of affordances, as explained by Don Norman. I mentioned the concept earlier in this blog.

So how can you drop labels? Peter gives the following answers:

  • Make the shape of the control have an obvious ‘affordance’ as to how to use it
  • Make the shape of the controls the same as the thing you are controlling
  • Make controls uniquely shaped so that once a control is learned it’s remembered by feel
  • Make controls you want people to use larger and proud
  • Focus on the most-used controls first

Please read yourself.

Design of everyday things: Visibility, Allowances

Today, I would like to highlight two of the design principles of Donald Norman, from his book “The Design of Everyday Things“: Visibility and allowances.

Visibility refers to the fact that things need to be visible or at least perceivable. If the state of the software changes, show it somehow.  Allowances refer to the fact that a user interface must be visible. Dilbert explains it quite well in this cartoon: Black buttons on a black case make the product inevitably unusable. If something can be performed on a product, the user must see how to perform the action. The user must be guided unconsciously.

Unfortunately, these two principles are too often sacrified merely for beautiful design.