5 MORE Secrets of Good UI Design from Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines

Apple Knows Good UI Design

It’s no secret that Apple has impeccable design taste. But (and with apologies to Lada Gaga) were they Born That Way or do they follow some underlying discipline that helps them excel at getting people to want to look at, touch, interact with, and ultimately BUY their products.

Last week we took a look at 5 secrets of good UI design from Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines. But a “Top 5” list hardly seems like enough. There’s a lot of wisdom in those Human Interface Guidelines.

The thought is simple: we can, and should, be implementing these ideas in our designs and on our websites:

5. Focus on Solutions Not Features

Apple wants developers to focus on making simple, elegant, useful programs and apps. They are serious about delivering an easy, memorable experience. First and foremost they want developers thinking about solutions, not features. Essentially, they want developers to ask the question, “What does my app do for the user?” rather than “What are all the cool things users can do with my app?” The former leads to a focused experience, the later begs for feature bloat.

There are two easy ways to combat this issue: avoid feature cascade and remember the 80/20 rule.

Feature cascade are features that are not directly relevant to the main purpose of the app.

How do I use this information?

When you think of your website, it should have a purpose – same as an app or a program. And when a site is built correctly, it doesn’t focus on feature bloat. The “wouldn’t it be cool if…” stuff that tends to creep into projects. The goal is to provide a solution for your customer. Make it easy to find that product, to find out about your service, and to connect with you. If you have a SaaS product, know why your users love you and focus on THAT. Create solutions, not possibilities.

4. Use Progressive Disclosure

We’ve talked a ton on this website about the critical path. The critical path is the most likely path somebody will use to go from the beginning of your website to the goal state (completed sale, contact form entry, etc.). When done correctly, the critical path naturally takes advantage of progressive disclosure.

Progressive disclosure, according to Apple, “consists of hiding additional information or more complex UI until the user needs or requests it”.

How do I use this information?

This is pretty straight forward. A website – especially when it’s geared for sales or leads – should be shaped like a funnel. And each page should give the user just enough information to get to the next page without over-burdening them with too many choices or too much information.

This seems like an obvious thing that you probably already do, but go back and look. Time and time again, I see small businesses with websites where the front page is giving out too much information. An easy way to tell if your website is doing it wrong is to look at your frontpage. If you’re using several paragraphs of text, without a really good reason, you’re not using progressive disclosure. The front page is supposed to push users into other parts of the website. Unless purposefully designed to be a destination page – it shouldn’t function like one.

3. Captivate with Gorgeous Graphics

This is one of the great hallmarks of Apple. Everything from the design of their products, to their apps, to their live Apple Events is designed to captivate the user with a singular beautiful image. Think of the OSX dock and how pretty those icons are. Think about Apple’s push into the Retina display, a double-density display where pixels at the proper distance are indistinguishable to the user.

Apple is serious about making things pretty.

This is a case of quality over quantity. A singular gorgeous image can go a long way in the right context.

How do I use this information?

While Apple is certainly dedicated to making things look good, I suspect their real motivation here is to provide clarity to the user. The easiest way to do that digitally is with a well thought out graphic. I’m reminded of the website paidtoexist.com as an example of somebody with a memorable image to go along with their pitch. It really gives weight to the idea that you’re getting something if you sign up to their list.

Think about that: one well done image was able to ADD VALUE in the mind of the user to the exchange.

This is what happens when you captivate with gorgeous graphics.


2. Help Users Be Productive Immediately

Users on the web are constantly on a mission. The web is a purpose-driven place. Even when we’re killing time, we’re still choosing where we’re going and what we’re clicking on from site to site. Doing is baked in to the DNA of the Internet.

Apple wants their developers to make their apps immediately usable. The learning curve should be as small as possible. And all clutter and distractions should be eliminated.

How do I use this information?

This is Apple’s way of keeping the developers focused on the goal. If the app is a text editor: dump them right into a document. If it’s your website, help them find what they want in as few clicks as is reasonably possible, while still following other guidelines like Progressive Disclosure.

1. Use User-Centric Terminology

If you’ve been reading us for any amount of time, you’ll know that we’re all about websites that speak the user’s language. It’s just fantastic that Apple says this exact same thing in their Human Interface Guidelines.

Even better, Apple has a great chart that shows clear differences in terminology between developers and users.

The larger point is taken: if you don’t speak the user’s language, they won’t know what you are saying.

How do I use this information?

In the example that Apple used, it’s between terms common to developers and terms common to users. On your website, the challenge is to speak in ways that your customers understand you. Small businesses especially have a knack for writing copy that is either written from the company point of view or is bland to the point of meaninglessness. You MUST avoid this!

Fortunately there are many resources out there to help us learn how to speak the user’s language.

You can look into some of the great advertising books, Scientific Advertising, Tested Advertising Methods, or Ogilvy on Advertising. There are also some great copywriting books.

And if you want to stay firmly on the Internet, there are a lot of good web resources out there too to help you with copywriting too. Take advantage!

One comment on “5 MORE Secrets of Good UI Design from Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines

  1. Pingback: 5 Secrets of Good UI Design from Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines | A Better User Experience

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