100 Things Every Designer Should Know About People

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This is the most helpful guide to user-interface design I’ve seen. It conveys what science knows about human behavior and how that should influence your design of a website or app. Why fight instincts? Here are 100 useable tips, explained, on taking advantage of the natural tendencies in the way our eyes, brains, and emotions work. Some of the 100 tips are common sense, and some are revelatory. Each is revealed with a principle, some examples, and a takeaway. I use this set as a kind of informal check-list of possibilities. As more of our life migrates to the web, it is ever more important to remember that design is about function, and not just good looks. This overlooked gem of a book encapsulates a lot of wisdom on how to make the functional work for people.

-- KK  

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People
Susan M. Weinschenk
2011, 256 pages
$20

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

People believe that things shown close together belong together

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People process information better in bite-sized chunks

Applying the concept of progressive disclosure:

Progressive disclosure means providing only the information people need at the moment.

Progressive disclosure requires multiple clicks. You may have heard it said that Web sites should minimize the number of times that people have to click to get detailed information. The number of clicks is not important. People are very willing to click multiple times. In fact, they won’t even notice they’re clicking if they’re getting the right amount of information at each click to keep them going down the path. Think progressive disclosure; don’t count clicks.

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Steven Palmer (1981) traveled around the world and asked people to draw a coffee cup. Figure 5.2 shows examples of what they drew.

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What most people drew when asked to draw a coffee cup

What’s interesting about these drawings is the angle and perspective. A few of the cups are sketched straight on, but most are drawn from a perspective slightly above the cup looking down, and offset a little to the right or left. This has been dubbed the canonical perspective. Very few people would draw a coffee cup as in Figure 5.3, which is what you’d see if you were looking at a coffee cup from above.
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Most people don’t draw a coffee cup like this.

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People read faster with a longer line strength, but they prefer a shorter line length

Have you ever had to decide what column width to use on a screen? Should it be a wide column with 100 characters per line? Or a short column with 50 characters per line? Or something in between? The answer depends on whether you want people to read faster or to like the page.

Mary Dyson (2004) conducted research on line length, and combed other studies to determine what line length people prefer. Her work showed that 100 characters per line is the optimal length for on-screen reading speed; but we prefer a short or medium line length (45 to 72 characters per line).

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Takeaways
Use concrete terms and icons. They will be easier to remember.
Let people rest (and even sleep) if you want them to remember information.
Try not to interrupt people if they are learning or encoding information.
Information in the middle of a presentation will be the least likely to be remembered.