'MOO.COM UX rules' - circa 2008
I wrote these up just before I left MOO I think.
= Optimise for the common case =
Adding something to satisfy the needs of a small number of users confuses the rest. The tools we build should satisfy the needs of the majority of users.
= Build tools that on meeting one simple need =
Tools should focus on solving one problem e.g. "Signing up for a newsletter", "Previewing a pack". If a problem can't be articulated in a single sentence, rethink the problem, there's probably more than one thing that needs building.
= Build tools for users without experience =
Tools should be easy to use for users those without experience of our websites, and meets users initial needs.
= Users needs are not always the same as the features they ask for =
Nothing elese to say here.
= One action per page =
Stick to 1 action per page (search, crop, signup), with clear escape routes / next steps.
= Context is more important than consistancy =
Giving users the most useful information, at a given point, is more important than consistency across pages e.g. changing a sidebar based on where you are in the site is good if it bubbles up useful content to the user (see Ready Made).
= Optimise for average user's return rate =
Tools that people use on a daily basis need to be designed differently from ones that people use only occationally.
People using tools regularly have more time to learn, and need shortcuts for repetitive tasks. Iconography and and more complex user paths are fine for them because they have time to learn how they work.
Occasional tools need to be straightforward at first glance, their use transparent on first glance, with a small number of simple text hints. Too many features can make things harder to understand at first glance. As can iconography or shortcuts that they have to learn the meaning of first before they can use them.
= Make a pages functionally readable =
You should be able to give a page a single scan and work out what it does. The most important thing here is the order and prominence of elements. e.g. closing your eyes, them opening them and see whether they jump to the page elements in the order they should be used.
= Only tell people things once per page =
Do not repeat instructions to people. For example, if you have an area of a page where you can drag items to, do not have text at the top of the page AND within the drag area explaining what a user needs to do.
= Contextual help is best =
Help text and hints should be placed as close to the relevant page element as possible. e.g. If a page element needs some explanation that it should be dragged, then place the text "Drag to crop". Hiding help text in popups is bad.
= Let people teach themselves =
Let people figure things out for themselves by making sure the most obvious action is something you want them to do. This is better than longwinded explanations. E.g. the photo picker page has little text, but almost the only thing you can do initially is drag something.
= Keep the user path as short as possible =
The user should be presented with the shortest path to their goal. the exception to this is where a valid business case can be made for extending it.
= Make decisions for people =
Giving people endless choice confuses. Make some choices for people and let them focus on the things that are really important to them. e.g. doont give people a choice between 10 fonts that all look the same.
= Make people confident in their actions =
Explain to people what is about to happen to them e.g. "Want to add more images? your crop positions will be saved". Explain how many steps something is going to take and where they are in a process / navigation system.
Pages make sense before and after action
Or "Designing for empty". If an area of a page is going to change after a user's action, explain what is likely to happen and use it as space for a hint. e.g. a floating button that says upload, with no context of what it is uploading is bad. A simple box with "uploaded files will appear here" does the job (hide the message after first upload).
= State should always be maintained between pages =
The state of a page (i.e. any actions made by a user) should be maintained between postbacks and when returning to a page.
= Make sure pages content can be linked to forever =
If pages have to be removed, then redirect to somewhere useful.
= Placement of controls =
Primary action buttons (Save, Next step, etc) should be placed at the bottom right of the screen.
Checkboxes should be placed to the left of their label.
As a general rule, if there is more than action on a page, and not of equal importance, the most important should be a button, the rest links.
Textbox hints ("e.g. your name" next to a name field) should be placed to the right of text box using a
<small>tag. For Textareas they should be placed underneath.
= Warnings and errors =
Error messages and warnings should be straight to the point, polite and written in plain english. People are not computers (i.e. "Unhanded exception" is not a good error message), and should never be made to feel stupid.
= Hints and text =
All headers, hints and control labels should be written in sentence case. Hints and help text should be short and straightforward to understand and should never been hidden from a user (e.g. under rollovers or popups).
= Drag hints =
Areas of a page where something can be dragged on to should have a grey inset dashed border 3px wide.
= Page headers =
Index pages (/products, /Flickr /Ideas) have a graphic header and a strap line, pages further down have breadcrumbs and a header.
= Validation =
All pages should aim to be valid xhtml. If a page doesn't validate it should be for a justifiable (e.g. the only way to implement a piece of functionality)
= Links =
Links should always be underlined, unless htey are part of a top-level menu system.