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The Two Laws of User Interface Design According to Jef Raskin Apply to Experience Design

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Jef Raskin is probably best known for starting the Macintosh project at Apple in the late 1970s. He was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to establish a Computer and Humanities center which used a graphic display rather than the teletypes. But what I love about Raskin is that he was in a graduate music program at UCSD and taught art and photography.

He also conducted the San Francisco Chamber Opera Society and played various instruments, including the organ and the recorder. His artwork has displayed from New York’s Museum of Modern Art to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He received a patent for airplane wing construction and designed and marketed radio controlled model gliders. He was said to be an accomplished archer, target shooter, bicycle racer and an occasional model race car driver. And he published a series of collected recorder studies using the pseudonym of Aabel Aabius. Ever think you are not doing enough with your life?

But I digress…

According to Jef Raskin in his book The Humane Interface, there are two laws of user interface design, based on the fictional laws of robotics created by Isaac Asimov (no really – fictional laws of robotics from Asimov):

First Law: A computer shall not harm your work or, through inactivity, allow your work to come to harm.

Second Law: A computer shall not waste your time or require you to do more work than is strictly necessary.

Let’s discuss this in terms of experience design:

An Experience Shall Not Harm You or Allow You to Come to Harm

At the minimum, when designing experiences, we must ensure the safety and accessibility. Accessibility is the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible. Accessibility can be viewed as the “ability to access” and benefit from an experience. Though the concept of accessibility is often focuses on people with special needs, Accessibility is strongly related to universal design – making things accessible to all people whether they have a special needs or not.

Alternatives paths may be provided through an experience, for example, a ramp in additions to stairs for accessing a space or screen readers for a displays.

Wayfinding is a discipline that focuses on the way people navigate from place to place while Information Architecture is a discipline that focuses on the way people navigate data – like websites, kiosks, on-line communities, etc. Regardless if you are designing for interaction in a space or service or device, it starts with the context.

And let’s not confuse accessibility with usability – which is the extent to which a product, device, service, or environment can be used to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction.

And just because something is usable does not mean it is desirable… We want the best experiences for our audiences. We don’t want them to be merely satisfied or even just loyal – we want advocates that rave about how wonderful our experiences are.

An Experience Shall Not Waste Your Time or require you to do More Work than is Necessary

Today, people have more choices than ever before and are quick to turn the channel, walk out of the place or navigate to another experience. Today’s experiences must be engaging.

Experience Designers take an outside-in approach to determining, developing and delivering an engaging experience. It is by engaging our audience in the design of the experience that will ensure that the experience itself is engaging. Engage your audience as early as possible in the design process and engage them continuously throughout the process.

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