Design Guidelines

Your constantly-updated definition of Design Guidelines and collection of topical content and literature

What are Design Guidelines?

Design guidelines are sets of recommendations towards good practice in design. They are intended to provide clear instructions to designers and developers on how to adopt specific principles, such as intuitiveness, learnability, efficiency, and consistency. Instead of dictating conventions, design guidelines provide helpful advice on how to achieve a design principle that can be platform-specific or cross-platform.

A design guideline (e.g., “text should be easy to read”) sits between a principle in design (e.g., “an interface should be easy to use”) and a standard or rule for implementing it (e.g., “background: white; font-color: black; font-size: 20px”). A design guideline is thus intended to help designers understand how to implement a principle, without restricting their creativity in design, as the commanding inflexibility of a rule might.

Design guidelines emerge from various sources. Some have their foundations in basic common sense—despite that, they often get violated. Others are grounded in our understanding of human cognition, or are results of a particular empirical study or collections of studies. Still others are derived from theories of human action. Due to the varied sources and viewpoints from which these originate, some guidelines may conflict, particularly when applied under different contexts of design (e.g., designing for older users vs. for younger users). For this reason, design guidelines are not as generalizable as design principles. The disparity and incompleteness of design guidelines stem from our lack of one unifying theory of interaction—such a theory would probably require a complete understanding of human cognition, a commodity which designers may continue to strive for in the foreseeable future. Consequently, a designer’s discretion must continue to drive the interpretation of such guidelines so as to optimize the user experience of a product.

Literature on Design Guidelines

Here’s the entire UX literature on Design Guidelines by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Design Guidelines

Take a deep dive into Design Guidelines with our course UI Design Patterns for Successful Software.

Have you ever found yourself spotting shapes in the clouds? That is because people are hard-wired to recognize patterns, even when there are none. It’s the same reason that we often think we know where to click when first experiencing a website—and get frustrated if things aren’t where we think they should be. Choosing the right user interface design pattern is crucial to taking advantage of this natural pattern-spotting, and this course will teach you how to do just that.

User interface design patterns are the means by which structure and order can gel together to make powerful user experiences. Structure and order are also a user’s best friends, and along with the fact that old habits die hard (especially on the web), it is essential that designers consider user interfaces very carefully before they set the final design in stone. Products should consist of such good interactions that users don’t even notice how they got from point A to point B. Failing to do so can lead to user interfaces that are difficult or confusing to navigate, requiring the user to spend an unreasonable amount of time decoding the display—and just a few seconds too many can be “unreasonable”—rather than fulfilling their original aims and objectives.

While the focus is on the practical application of user interface design patterns, by the end of the course you will also be familiar with current terminology used in the design of user interfaces, and many of the key concepts under discussion. This should help put you ahead of the pack and furnish you with the knowledge necessary to advance beyond your competitors.

So, if you are struggling to decide which user interface design pattern is best, and how you can achieve maximum usability through implementing it, then step no further. This course will equip you with the knowledge necessary to select the most appropriate display methods and solve common design problems affecting existing user interfaces.

All Literature

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