Design Principles User Experience (UX) topic overview/definition

What are Design Principles?

Design principles are sets of generally applicable laws, guidelines, human biases, and design considerations, all of which reflect the accumulated knowledge and experience of practitioners and researchers. They serve as a starting point for the creation of new designs to solve problems. Design principles usually combine developments across all design-related disciplines, including behavioral science, sociology, physics, and ergonomics.

According to William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler, authors of the book Universal Principles of Design, design principles are aimed at helping designers find ways to enhance usability, influence perception, increase appeal, teach users, and make sound design decisions during projects. The careful selection and application of appropriate principles should increase the probability that a design will be successful. Although these principles have general applicability, the choice of which to apply to a project is usually left to the designer’s critical ability. Additionally, the way in which the designer can apply each principle also heavily depends on his or her ability to rationalize, understand, and contextualize the problems he or she has been called upon to solve. Therefore, successfully applying such principles takes a keen eye and skill at making judgment calls on users’ perceptions and likely actions—attributes of a designer that tend to improve with experience in the field.

To help designers gain inspiration for implementing a particular principle, “guidelines” (i.e., practical information on how to implement a principle) come into play. 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 principle thus reflects a philosophy or aim of design, whereas a guideline is intended to help designers understand how to implement a principle.

Literature on Design Principles

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

All literature

Visual Aesthetics

Ch 19: Visual Aesthetics

Visual aesthetics, as discussed in this chapter, refers to the beauty or the pleasing appearance of things. We discuss the importance of visual aesthetics in the context of interactive systems and products, present how it has been studied in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and suggest directions for future work in this field. 19...

Book chapter
Contextual Design

Ch 8: Contextual Design

Contextual Design is a structured, well-defined user-centered design process that provides methods to collect data about users in the field, interpret and consolidate that data in a structured way, use the data to create and prototype product and service concepts, and iteratively test and refine those concepts with users. This is ...

Book chapter
Activity Theory

Ch 16: Activity Theory

Foreword: Why activity theory? This chapter is about a theory that was developed decades ago. Some of the basic ideas of the theory were formulated before the word "computer" was ever invented. Then why does the Encyclopaedia of Human-Computer Interaction feature a chapter on the theory? In other words, Why activity theory? The question c...

Book chapter
Industrial Design

Ch 6: Industrial Design

In loving memory of Prof. Dr. Kees OverbeekeJuly 18th, 1952 - October 8th, 2011 Kees left us unexpectedly on October 8th 2011, after a lifetime of dedication and warmth towards all the people who surrounded him. He was a passionate man. Kees was inspired, inspiring, engaging, dedicated, provocative and direct. He did not like easy and he was...

Book chapter
Philosophy of Interaction

Ch 11: Philosophy of Interaction

Over the last two decades, interaction design has emerged as a design discipline alongside traditional design disciplines such as graphics design and furniture design. While it is almost tautological that furniture designers design furniture, it is less obvious what the end product of interaction design is. Löwgren's answer is "in...

Book chapter
Tactile Interaction

Ch 20: Tactile Interaction

The following chapter describes a variety of ways in which Tactile Interaction may be used to enhance the human computer interface, i.e. the design of interactive products. Opening with a general discussion on a broad range of potential applications for Tactile Interaction, the chapter quickly moves onto to consider the key physical, perceptual ...

Book chapter