As part of the iPhone SDK, Apple included a gem for anyone interested in creating effective user experiences: The iPhone Human Interface Guidelines for Web Applications is a nicely-written set of guidelines to help developers build usable, intuitive applications for the iPhone. Looking past the iPhone however, you’ll find great advice that applies generally.
A couple of things struck me about the document. First, it’s incredibly well-written. It seems to intentionally avoid tech-speak or unnecessary jargon. It’s written in an almost dumbed-down, non-technical manner.
The other theme that permeates the entire paper is the enormous care and concern for users. The document can be read as a series of warnings to developers and designers. It constantly reminds the reader to "pay attention to" and "be mindful of" how user’s think, work and interact. It’s a glimpse into Apple’s design-dominated culture.
People wonder why people love their Macs and iPods. It’s because Apple is thoughtful and sympathetic. Unlike most other technology company cultures, technology takes a back seat.
Below are some choice snippets that I found especially useful:
- [U]nderstanding your users, is a cornerstone of user experience and user interface design, whether you are designing a webpage, an iPhone application, or a computer application.
- [Y]ou must be prepared for the probability that users will not be giving their undivided attention to your content, at least not for long.
- [O]ne of the ways to achieve simplicity is to avoid the clutter of too many visual elements that compete for the user’s attention. In a webpage, you might do this by reducing the number of ads, images, and links.
- Avoid clutter, unused blank space, and busy backgrounds.
- Express essential information succinctly.
- Avoid unnecessary interactivity.
- You can’t assume that users have the time (or can spare the attention) to figure out how your content works. Therefore, you should strive to make your web content instantly understandable to users.
- A webpage that is cluttered with many different sizes and styles of elements, different sizes and colors of text, and gratuitous images presents an unpleasant user experience.
- Avoid technical jargon in the user interface. Use what you know about your users to determine whether the words and phrases you plan to use are appropriate.
- Consistency across user interfaces allows users to apply knowledge they’ve gained from other webpages and applications to new content.