From the earliest days of the Internet, the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) has been a leading voice advocating for user experience. NN/g was founded in 1998 by design and usability authorities Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman. They’ve conducted groundbreaking research, evaluated UI of all shapes and sizes and guided critical design decisions.

In 1995, Jakob
 

Nielsen published his 10 general principles for interaction design. They became known as the 10 Usability Heuristics of User Interface Design. They offer a broad set of “rules of the road” — not specific usability guidelines. While much has changed in the world of digital experiences, Nielsen’s usability heuristics are as applicable today.

The second heuristic for user interface design is to ensure a Match between system and the real world.

The system should speak the users' language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.

We should never assume that our own interpretations and understanding of words — especially acronyms &mdash will match those of users.

A case in point: We recently worked with a digital-infrastructure management company to redesign a “Request a demo” page. We interviewed users that were exactly the role and type of people that would evaluate and request this demo. The user interviews surfaced a few common insights about the page we were optimizing. One was that there was an excessive use of acronyms. Some were well understood; but others were unclear to users.

Ensuring language is familiar is key to making a digital experience enjoyable. The words &mdash as much as the visual & interaction design &mdash, you choose demonstrate you know your users and care about them.

This article by NN/g dives deep into the 2nd usability heuristic with explanations and insight from real-world scenarios.

Match Between the System and the Real World: The 2nd Usability Heuristic Explained

Interfaces that follow real-world conventions and make information appear in a natural and logical order demonstrate empathy and acknowledgement for users.

Main Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Bjorn Thomson
Bjorn Thomson

Senior Business and UX Architect