I am currently working on a user interface guide for my company. I joined the company in November and I was fortunate to inherit a few powerful applications that are loved by our existing customer base. While these products do a great job of solving problems for our customers they sometimes look like they were designed by different groups at different times and by teams that did not communicate. We have made strides but still have further to go. Here are some of the items I will be discussing in our guide:
- Style guidelines. We use CSS but sometimes new styles appear to be created without enough thought. You have to keep your CSS files clean and well documented. Review them on a regular basis to ensure that new styles are only being added when needed.
- Define guidelines around button placement and ordering. It is far too common for people to order Save/Cancel differently from page to page, leaving customers confused with every new page they encounter.
- Define load time expectations. While many U.S. customers now have high-speed connections this is not the case throughout the world. Make sure that your user interface loads consistently, and within a reasonable amount of time, for all of your target customers. If your users regularly go get a cup of coffee while waiting for page loads, you’ve got the wrong user interface.
- Avoid jagged interfaces. Use rounded corners everywhere. We are NOT there ourselves but we will be.
- Use of descriptive text. What types of information should be provided to users?
- How are errors and confirmation text displayed? Do you take users to error pages or show messages on the page. Pick a method and stick with it.
- Do you use pop-ups? If yes, how should they display and what behaviors must they support.
- How are lists displayed? For example, if a lists of users is returned by a search make sure they are always displayed the same way. In our mobile application, for example, we return lists of users on various pages. This code needs to be common and the display of the users should clearly be the same on every page.
I know, as some have already pointed out, that this list is not comprehensive and only begins to scratch the surface; there is a lot to cover on this topic. I definitely appreciate any thoughts you can add to the conversation. Let me know what user interface standards you have.