The web comes with its own context. It is not the desktop. And while over time the lines between desktop and web blur more and more, there is still a unique aspect to creating rich interactions on the web. The following key design principles unlock these interactions and form the core of a UX framework for web applications:
- The direct principle or “where there is output, let there be input”. For example, instead of editing content on a separate page, do it directly in context.
- The lightweight principle or the need to produce a light footprint and reduce the effort required to interact with the web application. A primary way to create a light footprint is through the use of contextual tools.
- The in-page principle or the reduction of page refreshes which are disruptive to a user’s mental flow. Instead of assuming a page refresh for every action, we get back to modelling the user’s process. We then decide intelligently when to keep the user on the page, how to overlay information or provide information in the page flow, create dynamic content and in-page flows.
- The invitation principle or the primary challenge of discoverability. A feature is useless if users don’t discover it. A key way to improve discoverability is to provide invitations. Invitations cue the user to the next level of interaction.
- The transition principle or the powerful techniques of brighten and dim, expand and collapse, self-healing fade and spotlight.
- The reaction principle or “a responsive interface is an intelligent interface”. Use lively responses, including live search, live suggest, refining search, and autocomplete.
A highly recommended read on the subject, which directly inspired this post, is the book Designing Web Interfaces – Principles and Patterns for Rich Interaction by Bill Scott & Theresa Neil, available online or in print by O’Reilly.