Full day training course offered at Usability Week Dallas

User Interface Principles Every Designer Must Know

Learn key human-computer interaction (HCI) research findings, and how you can apply them to UX design problems

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) integrates concepts and methods from computer science, design, and psychology to build interfaces that are accessible, easy to use, and efficient.

In this course, you will learn about many of the findings from HCI research, which uses controlled experiments to reach conclusions. The course also address how these findings can be translated into specific design recommendations. For example, you will understand how interfaces and input devices (e.g. mouse vs. touchscreen) can burden users and what you can do to improve design.

We include examples from websites, applications, hardware, and physical products.

Topics Covered

  • Origins of HCI
  • Design better interfaces from the start by knowing human limitations and easing the load on the user
    • Information-processing approach
    • Perception and attention:
      • Top-down and bottom-up processes
      • Gist phenomenon in scene perception
      • Visual features noticed preattentively 
      • Page density and how it affects users
      • The influence of aesthetics
    • Cognitive load and working memory
    • How encoding and retrieval affect memory 
    • Shallow and deep processing
    • Supporting memory retrieval
    • Learning
    • Mental models and their importance for learning
    • Multimedia and learning
    • Norman's theory of interaction: Gulf of evaluation and gulf of execution
    • Affordances and signifiers
    • Skeuomorphic design
    • Motor actions:
      • Hyck-Hyman response-selection law and categorical versus alphabetical menus
      • Fitts’ Law and its implications for design
      • Stimulus-response compatibility
    • Touch input on mobile devices
      • Mobile text input
    • Effect of stress on behavior
  • Interaction style
    • Direct manipulation 
    • Menus, forms, and dialogs:
      • Broad menus versus deep menus
      • Pie menus versus square menus
      • Adaptive toolbar menus
      • Drop-down boxes versus radio buttons
      • Notification annoyance
      • Modal and nonmodal dialogs
  • Universal design
    • Designing systems to be used by anyone, anywhere
    • Issues in designing for specific populations (e.g. kids, seniors, and users with disabilities)
    • Cultural differences in dealing with complex designs
  • Interfaces that support collaboration
    • Common ground
    • Synchronous versus asynchronous collaboration
  • Complex interfaces
    • Strategies for supporting different types of search
    • Information visualization:
      • Overview+detail
      • Focus+context
    • Ideal response times and effect of longer waiting period
  • Development for HCI


The basis of the course is a lecture format, with group exercises to reinforce the learned principles and guidelines.

The course also includes:

  • Findings from our own usability studies, including eyetracking
  • Videos from usability testing of people's behavior in response to a design
  • Screenshots of designs that work and don’t work, and why
  • Opportunities to ask questions and get answers


Kathryn Whitenton

Kathryn Whitenton is a Senior User Experience Specialist with the Nielsen Norman Group. She works with clients to evaluate the usability and information architecture of websites in a variety of industries including technology, telecommunications, and media, as well as corporate intranets. She has conducted usability research, eyetracking user research, and studies of users on mobile devices in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Her user studies have included general audiences as well as specific consumer types, business segments, children, and seniors. Read more about Kathryn

Course Date: April 10, 2013

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