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UI Guidelines and Standards


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UI Guidelines and Standards

When one of your company's agile software developer needs to make a design decision, where do they go to look up the right answer? Barring that, how about a good example? Or do they just take their best guess based on some cool stuff they saw in the MP3 ripping freeware they downloaded last night?


The Usability Team advocates UI Guidelines and Standards to communicate approved designs to software designers and developers. This provides your development community with a single reference for basic design decisions, resulting in the following:

  • Greater consistency across user interfaces.
  • More time for your usability staff to focus on higher-order design challenges (e.g., designing a UI to fit a user/task domain) rather than triaging UI's for lower order design issues (e.g., approved font type, approved font size, foreground/background contrast, etc.)
  • More time for your QA staff to focus on real bugs instead of layout nits.
  • UI Guidelines and Standards give weight to basic usability decisions because the fact of their existence proves that decisions about font are not driven by the personal preference of the reviewer, but are instead part of an agreed-upon standard.


The Usability Team takes a "less is more" approach to UI Guidelines and Standards. Sometimes simpler is better and a 5-page document presenting basic standards and patterns is all your development community needs, wants, or will use. At other times, a small, 50-page website presenting more topics, details, and examples might be appropriate.  

How Long Does it Take?

Overall Process: 2+ weeks

Time estimates for this activity are largely unknown because the amount of time spent on the project depends on our level of involvement and the scope of the design document your organization wants.

The guideline development process consists of gathering or writing source material, having it approved, publishing it, and then maintaining and revising it. There may even be a kick-off meeting where the scope of the guideline and standards is established. 


UI Guidelines and Standards may be written any time.

Questions Answered

Have you ever informed a developer that s/he should use a particular font, e.g., Arial, instead of their favorite font, e.g., Comic Sans? And has that developer ever asked, "So, is this stuff written down somewhere?"

Has QA ever asked you what UI characteristics they should be testing for?

The Usefulness Characteristic

UI Guidelines and Standards support Quality to the extent that they allow developers and QA testers to make simple decisions faster. They also support Usability to the extent that they enable usability professionals to spend more time on higher-order design challenges instead of simple choices like font type, font size, and label alignment.

GUI guidelines, user interface guidelines, and web UI guidelines from The Usability Team.

This developer turns out consistent user interfaces.

But there are 43 creative spirits just like him writing the call center application that will be the engine-room of your business.

UI Guidelines from The Usability Team can help.

The Usability Team - Usability Consulting Services

Copyright © 2007 - Scott Butler and Richard Gunther. All rights reserved.