Speaking the Language of Meta-Principles: Consistency, Hierarchy, and Personality

Date: May 7, 2014
Deborah Levinson, Nimble Partners

Deborah LevinsonWhen designing or redesigning an application, Nimble Partners focuses on three core principles: consistency, hierarchy, and personality. We can think of these principles as if they’re part of a language. Consistency and hierarchy are the grammar people learn while using an application: the basic elements that define how a language is spoken. The “words” we speak—that is, the visual design characteristics we choose to convey a message—create an application’s personality. These principles are so fundamental to creating successful interfaces that we call them “meta-principles.” While technology that affects interfaces changes, the underlying meta-principles hold true.

Nimble Partners arrived at these three meta-principles after years of heuristic reviews, usability studies, and informal observation of digital applications. In this talk, Deborah will introduce these principles and show how they apply in examples, including a case study redesign of a web and mobile application to help users track diet and exercise.

About the Speaker
Deborah A. Levinson (@nimblepartners) is a user interface designer with over sixteen years of expertise helping designers, engineers, and communications professionals find common ground and build successful digital applications. A former webmaster for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Debby is also a co-author of Visual Usability: Principles and Practices for Designing Digital Applications, published by Morgan Kaufmann in May 2013, and The MIT Guide to Teaching Website Design, published by the MIT Press in April 2001. Debby and visual designer Tania Schlatter co-own Nimble Partners, a Boston-area user experience and user interface design firm.


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