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The 10 Commandments of Human Centered Design, by far, is my favorite point of reference when working on any project. Whether it’s a new project where I have broad influence on the outcome, or when working in an existing environment, it is the guiding light to a fulfilling result.

I : Thou shall provide a sense of PLACE

No one likes to use a system, enter a space or use a product and feel lost. It just kills the experience and raises anxiety unnecessarily. It is vital to incorporate a clear sense of place so that person having the experience can find their way from one place or task to another. Use of arrows; indication of where in a progressive process someone may be; or path are just some ways to address place.

II : Thou shall provide FEEDBACK to thy user

You click, and nothing happens, you click again, and again, and again. Finally! something happens. Despite the fact something actually was happening often there’s no feedback telling the user their action was accepted. This surely makes for an irritating experience. Mouse over effects, spinning “thinking” wheels and such tell the user their action has effected they system. The late space shuttle launches had a countdown ticker to tell excited observers when the launch was going to happen. This is a simple example of providing feedback.

III : Thou shall be CONSISTENT

When working in a system or a space, it is very important to stay consistent in everything a human is going to come in contact with. Things that are the same or even similar shouldn’t be changed unless of course there is a very good reason. When creating an environment or product you will build in certain conventions, stick to them.

IV : Thou shall minimize COMPLEXITY

Complexity is pretty much the norm in today’s systems, however, complex systems don’t need to be perceived as complex. Through thoughtful planning and testing, complexity can be considerably reduced. Many cumbersome processes often can be automated or steps eliminated by simply observing and listening to users. Perceived simplicity is golden, so always go for the gold.

V : Thou shall present users information using CLEAR LANGUAGE

All though this may seem obvious, often times industry jargon or professional terminology end up in areas they shouldn’t. You should always use clear, concise words that are relevant to the system or product. Use only words that are needed and are contextually correct and fit within the “mental model” of the user.

VI : Thou shall be vigilant in providing graceful ERROR HANDELING

As a rule, you should avoid errors at any means possible. In a perfect world, we would never encounter errors. Since we do encounter errors, handeling them gracefully is important. Be sure that the user is able to understand the error and has a way to get around the problem. Providing concise instruction may also help. “Error xyz123 click here to send a report to some unknown place to continue” is a horrible way of handeling an error.

VII : Thou shall be deliberate and mindful of AESTHETICS

Fact, no one likes using or interacting with ugly things. Bad aesthetics can single handedly kill user experience. While making things pretty certainly improves the likelihood of a more satisfying experience, the aesthetics need address very specific needs and serve a purpose. Never design for the sake of being pretty, design for the sake of being usable then think about making it pretty.

VIII : Thou shall MATCH thy users mental model

We all have a way of seeing the world and interacting with it. We know, when we get behind the wheel in a car, pressing the gas will make us go, and the break will make us stop. Innovation would not be switching the pedals, that would create a really big problem. While convention sometimes feels constraining, it’s best to present the user with logical “expected” action/outcome dynamics that match their mental model. However, sometimes new scenarios or challenges will require breaking with convention in which case very careful planning and testing are in order. If you’re lucky, you’ll create a new convention that is adopted world wide.

IX : Thou shall ANTICIPATE a users needs

We all know users will find ways to use our products and services in a way that they were never intended for. As UX professionals we need to try and anticipate as many possible ways a user might bend a system and provide the right tools and options at that moment to help stere them in the right direction. Don’t rely on the user to figure things out, anticipate what they expect or may do and account for those actions.

X : Thou shall account for users and environmental CONSTRAINTS

Every system will have constraints and limitions, as does the user. Always provide the necessary queues such as graphics, pictures, video and sounds to help account for those constraints.

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