Universal Design for Interactive Systems

Universal Design Principles

History

The 7 Principles of Universal Design were developed in 1997 by a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, led by the late Ronald Mace in the North Carolina State University(NCAU).

Purpose

To guide the design of environments, products and communications. According to the Center for Universal Design in NCSU, the Principles “may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable The design is useful to people with a range of abilities and appealing to all. No user is excluded or stigmatized. Wherever possible, access should be the same for all, where identical use is not possible, equivalent use should be supported. Where appropriate, security, privacy and safety provision should be available to all products and environments.”

  1. Equitable use

The design is useful to people with a range of abilities and appealing to all. No user is excluded or stigmatized. Wherever possible, access should be the same for all, where identical use is not possible, equivalent use should be supported. Where appropriate, security, privacy and safety provision should be available to all.

For example, a website that is designed to be accessible to everyone, including people who are blind and use screen reader technology, employs this principle.

2. Flexibility in use

The design allows for a range of ability and preference, through the choice of methods of use and adaptivity to the user’s pace, precision and custom.

For example, is a museum that allows visitors to choose to read or listen to the description of the contents of a display case.

3. Simple and intuitive

Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

Science lab equipment with clear and intuitive control buttons is an example of an application of this principle.

4. Perceptible information

The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.

An example of this principle is captioned television programming projected in a noisy sports bar.

5. Tolerance for error

Minimizing the impact and damage caused by mistakes or unintended behaviour. Potentially dangerous situations should be removed or made it hard to reach. Potential hazards should be shielded by warnings. Systems should fail safe from the user’s perspective and users should be supported in tasks that require concentration.

An example of a product applying this principle is software applications that provide guidance when the user makes an inappropriate selection.

6. Low physical effort

Systems should be designed to be comfortable to use, minimizing physical effort and fatigue. The physical design of the system should allow the user to maintain a natural posture with reasonable operating effort. Repetitive or sustained actions should be avoided.

Doors that open automatically for people with a wide variety of physical characteristics demonstrate the application of this principle.

7. Requires size and space for approach and use

The placement of the system should be such that it can be reached and used by any user regardless of body size, posture or mobility. Important elements should be on the line of sight for both seated and standing users. All physical components should be comfortably reachable by seated or standing users. Systems should allow for variation in hand size and provide enough room for assistive devices to be used.

A flexible work area designed for use by employees who are left- or right-handed and have a variety of other physical characteristics and abilities is an example of applying this principle.

Read more

Design rules for interactive systems

Evaluation techniques for interactive systems

Multi-modal interaction

Designing For Diversity

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