Apple’s 27 Guidelines for Mobile User Experience Design

by Petter Silfver

Sorry, but I have to stop you this very instant. If you are expecting to learn something new by reading this article, I am going to let you down big time. However, I do think you should bookmark this page and return to it from time to time and have a refill.

A lot of designers and developers love guidelines simply because they give us something to stand on and relate to. Lately, there has been an abundance of articles written that serves us with well-formulated guidelines to aid us in various design situations (I myself being guilty of this crime both here and there).

Today I was doing my monthly routine of flicking through Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines on my iPhone, and as I was going through the table of content I suddenly came to a halt (honestly feeling a bit embarrassed). There it was – like so many times before – the outline of Chapter 5 (also known as “User experience guidelines”). Why had I not spent more time thinking about and relating to its content from this high-rise perspective before? I have been so busy reading and contemplating all the explanations and examples in the chapter it self, that I have almost oblivious to the brilliant simplicity of the section headers.

  1. Focus on the Primary Task
  2. Elevate the Content that People Care About
  3. Think Top Down
  4. Give People a Logical Path to Follow
  5. Make Usage Easy and Obvious
  6. Use User-Centric Terminology
  7. Minimize the Effort Required for User Input
  8. Downplay File-Handling Operations
  9. Enable Collaboration and Connectedness
  10. De-emphasize Settings
  11. Brand Appropriately
  12. Make Search Quick and Rewarding
  13. Entice and Inform with a Well-Written Description
  14. Be Succinct
  15. Use UI Elements Consistently
  16. Consider Adding Physicality and Realism
  17. Delight People with Stunning Graphics
  18. Handle Orientation Changes
  19. Make Targets Fingertip-Size
  20. Use Subtle Animation to Communicate
  21. Support Gestures Appropriately
  22. Ask People to Save Only When Necessary
  23. Make Modal Tasks Occasional and Simple
  24. Start Instantly
  25. Always Be Prepared to Stop
  26. Don’t Quit Programmatically
  27. If Necessary, Display a License Agreement or Disclaimer

That is it! Everything else is basically contextual to the platform you are designing for. Almost every single one of these guidelines applies as much to Android and WP7 as they do to iOS. Print them out, put them on your wall. Use them as an outline for your next mobile evangelistic design presentation. Have them with you in your notebook as you are preparing to defend your designs in a client presentation.

In my opinion, guidelines works best when they are a bit abstract. They should not be instructive as much as being inspiring. In my line of work, you always hear about Donald Norman’s Six Design Principles, Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics, and Dieter Ram’s 10 Principles for Good Design. Let us add Apple’s 27 Guidelines for Mobile User Experience Design to that list.

As a tiny bonus, you can find a pocket-sized printout of the guidelines as a Dribbble shot. It is not lickable, but all guidelines are fitted into those glorious 400×300 pixels.

A baseball swing is a very finely tuned instrument. It is repetition, and more repetition, then a little more after that.

Reggie Jackson

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